The rates for medical malpractice insurance in Colorado are actually quite modest. The base rate for high-risk specialties, such as obstetrics, pay annual premiums in the vicinity of $50,000. This is comparable to what many low-risk specialties, such as internal medicine, are charged in high-premium territories in other parts of the country. The major reason behind Colorado’s beneficial medical malpractice climate is the $1 million dollar cap on awards for successful malpractice suits, and $300,000 cap on non-economic (pain and suffering) awards.
The modern history of Colorado tort reform begins in the mid-1980s, when its legislature realized that continually rising costs of medical malpractice insurance were forcing many of the state’s doctors to move away, curtail high-risk procedures or retire early, which, in turn, was creating an access to healthcare crisis for its citizens. In response, the general assembly enacted the Health Care Availability Act (HCAA) in 1988.
Colorado’s HCAA implemented a number of procedural responsibilities and damage limitations in medical malpractice actions that were designed to guarantee the availability of healthcare services by helping contain the increasing costs of malpractice insurance for healthcare institutions and medical care professionals. In addition to establishing periodic payments for future damages as well as creating procedures and rules of evidence in medical malpractice cases, the HCAA established a $1 million overall cap on malpractice awards with a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages (it was raised to $300,000 in 2003).
Five years after the passage of the HCAA, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the state’s damage caps, finding that “the concerns that prompted the General Assembly to pass the HCAA, as expressed in the declaration of intent as well as the legislative history of the act, reasonably support the passage of the act.” This judicial stamp-of-approval on the state’s damage-cap legislation created an actuarial predictability that allows medical malpractice insurers to offer the moderate premium rates that Colorado physicians enjoy.
While damage cap legislation is the holy grail of medical malpractice insurance tort reform, Colorado has enacted a number of additional reforms that have contributed to its moderate malpractice premiums. In 1990, the Colorado Legislature implemented a certificate of merit statute in medical malpractice cases that requires a plaintiff to file a “certificate of review” within 60 days after service of the lawsuit on the defendant. The statute is intended to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits filed by requiring another expert physician—competent to express an opinion as to the alleged negligent conduct—concur that a breach in standard of care indeed occurred prior to entering the legal system. In 2003, Colorado passed a physician apology statute that lets physicians work with a patient who has had a bad outcome, taking responsibility for the situation with an apology, but prevents anything said in the course of the apology from being admitted in court. Also in 2003, the legislature passed law that provided that a physician business entity (practice or hospital), while liable for its own negligence, cannot be vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its employed physicians.
Colorado has enjoyed a stable, moderate medical malpractice insurance climate for almost 20 years. Because of this stability, many insurers in the state are willing to compete for your business. This is one of the many reasons to employ a medical malpractice insurance broker when shopping for coverage.
Request your free Colorado Medical Malpractice Insurance quote today. Our veteran liability specialists will ensure that you’re paying the lowest rates for the best terms for your medical liability insurance.
This write-up of Colorado was put together by Michael Matray, the Editor of the Medical Liability Monitor