State payouts to doctors ease malpractice pain

BY SUSAN K. LIVIO
Star-Ledger Staff
http://www.nj.com

Nearly 1,200 checks are in the mail to help obstetricians, neurosurgeons and radiologists afford their medical malpractice insurance and keep them practicing in New Jersey, Banking and Insurance Commissioner Steven Goldman announced yesterday.

The state’s Medical Malpractice Liability Insurance Premium Assistance fund is doling out $16.4 million to medical professionals who qualify because they work in the highest-risk fields.

The fund was established under a law adopted three years ago in response to soaring medical malpractice insurance rates that threatened to drive specialists out of the state.

Physicians and medical professionals who accept the subsidy must agree to continue practicing in New Jersey for two years.

“In the third and final year of this program, the medical malpractice market remains stable,” Goldman said in a prepared statement.

Neurosurgeons, who paid an average of $135,247 in malpractice insurance last year, will receive $20,689 from the fund; obstetricians, who paid $117,419 for malpractice insurance, will receive $18,582; and diagnostic radiologists, who paid an average of $40,547, will get $6,678, according to state spokesman Marshal McKnight.

The fund comes from fees paid by doctors, lawyers and employers. Doctors, radiologists and surgeons who qualify for a subsidy receive 65 percent of the pool; the remainder is earmarked for hospital charity care for uninsured patients, the state-run FamilyCare health insurance program for working families, and a student loan program for obstetricians and gynecologists who commit to practicing in New Jersey, according to the department.
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