Malpractice Insurance Pushing Wyoming Doctors Out of State

Nearly one-third of Wyoming doctors are planning to leave the state eventually and many of those say the cost of malpractice insurance is a factor, a new state report shows.

The Wyoming Healthcare Commission this week released a report giving detailed information about doctors and other health care professionals in the state.

The report states that 32 percent of the doctors who responded to questions say they have plans to move from Wyoming. Of those, more than half say that malpractice insurance rates were a factor. Other reasons included income, patient load, isolation and insufficient vacation time.

While the report states that there are more than 2,300 licensed physicians in Wyoming, it states that only 961 are practicing.

Dr. Robert Monger, a Cheyenne rheumatologist and former president of the Wyoming Medical Society, said the numbers didn’t surprise him.

“It is what I expected,” Monger said. “When I’ve talked to doctors, a large number of them are very concerned about their malpractice rates to the point that they’re considering leaving or planning on leaving the state.”

Sen. Mike Massie, D-Laramie, said he interprets the numbers to show that most doctors don’t have plans to leave Wyoming.

“I think that certainly medical malpractice rates continue to be an issue, though it doesn’t appear to be an overriding one with regard to recruiting and retaining health-care providers in Wyoming,” Massie said.

The report also stated that 16 percent of doctors in the state said that they had discontinued some service in the past year as a result of increases in medical malpractice insurance premiums. Meanwhile, another 16 percent said they had added services.

The report states that more than half of Wyoming’s counties lack obstetrics/gynecology services and 48 percent don’t have psychiatry services.

Legislators called for the preparation of the health care study two years ago, when they convened a special session to address concerns about medical malpractice and insurance issues. The Wyoming Healthcare Commission worked with the Health Professions Tracking Center at the University of Nebraska to contact licensed physicians in the state for the report.

“It was nice to be able to eliminate the anecdotal information we’ve been dealing with in the last couple of years and have real data,” said Beth Worthen, assistant director of the Healthcare Commission.
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