Malpractice suits pay out over $150m

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More than $150 million was paid out last year to Australian patients and their families who sued their doctors for malpractice following injury or death.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a report on Thursday into medical indemnity insurance that found about 2500 claims were made against doctors in 2005-06.

The figure equates to about 10 claims for each 100,000 services performed under Medicare.

The average payout was about $60,000, although the report noted some insurers showed “a strong upward trend” in the ultimate average size of claims in the past year.

Overall, the cost of claims increased from $99 million in 1997-98 up to $169 million in 2000-01, falling slightly in the last year to $151 million.

Medical indemnity is a form of liability insurance that covers doctors for financial loss if they are sued by patients.

Claims are lodged against doctors when a patient’s injury or death results from a breach or perceived breach of their duty of care.

The government has charged the ACCC with investigating whether the premiums charged by the six medical indemnity insurers in Australia are justified.

It found premiums, which had fallen about six per cent since the last annual report to an average of $5,537, were justified.

Doctors paid a total $315 million to the insurance companies in the year ending June 2006.

Assistant Treasurer Peter Dutton said the premium fall was good news for doctors and patients.

“Medical indemnity premiums have fallen for the third year in a row meaning professional cover remains both available and affordable for doctors,” Mr Dutton said.
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