Are Florida physicians required to carry medical malpractice insurance in Florida? The short answer is yes and no. Physicians are required to carry $100,000 of medical liability insurance before they can practice medicine in Florida. In addition, if the physician wants hospital privileges, they must carry $250,000 of malpractice insurance.
This amount is very rarely enough to cover even the expenses of a medical malpractice lawsuit, but to make matters worse, there’s a loophole that allows physicians to actually carry no insurance at all – they need only post a sign on their wall stating that they carry no insurance whatsoever.
In Florida, it’s a requirement that you carry auto insurance in order to drive a car. But to make your living as a physician, you need no insurance – just your statement that you have sufficient cash assets to pay off a court judgment should one of your patients be injured or die. There is currently a serious movement underway in the Sunshine State to make being a doctor a lot more like being a driver.
Alarmed by legislation that would force them to buy medical malpractice insurance, South Florida doctors predict that brain surgeons and obstetricians may shut down their practices or leave the state, rather than purchase this expensive coverage. Proponents of the proposed rule counter that it’s necessary in order to protect patients who can’t collect damages from errant doctors.
The issue has become heated, as physicians, already feeling pinched by HMO’s demanding more and paying less, view this proposed medical malpractice insurance requirement as another encroachment on their freedom.
The principle notwithstanding, doctors say this will be the practical effect: “We’re going to have neurosurgeons leaving, we’re going to have OB/Gyns giving up obstetrics, and it’s going to impact patients’ ability to get care,” said Dr. Paul Gluck, an OB/Gyn in Kendall, Fla. If a malpractice insurance mandate becomes law, south Florida doctors said it will drive some physicians out of the business – or, at least force them to shift their practices to parts of the state where premiums aren’t so high.
The most impacted, of course, are the most specialized -neurosurgeons and obstetricians as well as doctors performing other complex treatments. It can cost $100,000 or more in some parts of Florida to buy a year’s worth of medical malpractice insurance providing $250,000 of coverage. A South Florida neurosurgeon with five years’ experience, for instance, must pay $113,533 in premiums, according to figures from Florida Physicians Insurance Corp.
Florida is one of 12 states where soaring malpractice insurance premiums are putting doctors in a crisis situation, according to an analysis released by the American Medical Association. This news came as no shock to South Florida physicians, who since learning about increases for a year’s premiums, have been protesting their insurance problems.
The announcement was based on data compiled from various state medical associations. It served as part of the platform for AMA officials to talk about the organization’s support of a bill before Congress that would allow for full reimbursement of economic damages in medical malpractice suits, but that would limit punitive damages.
Physicians attending the conference were given an action kit entitled: “Will Your Doctor Be There? America’s Liability Crisis.” and were urged to tell patients and lawmakers about the problem. Trial attorneys have said that there’s no need for reform because the soaring premiums are simply an indication of temporary problems in the medical malpractice insurance industry.
A statewide move for a constitutional amendment is also being organized by the Florida Medical Association to curtail the huge outlays that doctors sometimes must pay in lawsuits.