Tag Archives: Florida

Florida Liability Insurance

medical team reviewing chart If you speak with any physician that has practiced in Florida for more than 10 years, you are sure to get at least one or two horror stories about fly-by-night Florida liability insurance companies that came into the state, enticed doctors with low rates, and then disappeared as quickly as they arrived. Up until about 5 or 6 years ago, the state was really a difficult place to shop for coverage and find secure Florida liability insurance. The good news is that things have changed for Florida liability insurance.

Over the last several years, the Florida State Department of Insurance has stepped up and is now effectively regulating the market. Where in the past, many medical malpractice insurance companies have stayed away from Florida, now they are coming back and this has created an environment for great competition and great choices for doctors.

Unless you work for a hospital or a large practice, more than likely in Florida you will carry limits of $250,000 per claim and $750,000 aggregate. Many doctors ask us if these limits are sufficient and if they should carry higher limits of $1 million per claim and $3 million aggregate. We usually council doctors to carry the limits that are typical of the state requirement, unless they feel they have some added liability or risk, or an outside entity such as a hospital or surgery center requires them to have higher limits. Additionally, in Florida we remind doctors Florida is a “homesteading” state, and that most doctors shelter their wealth from claims by using their homes or retirement funds.

Except for Miami and the area just around Miami in Dade county, most of the Florida liability rates in the state are relatively low. We recommend in Miami/Dade county that physicians shop for coverage every year because the rates can fluctuate wildly from year to year and physicians can save significant amounts of money if shopping at the right time.

Physicians who own medi-spas also have a vast number of options for insurance coverage. Since medi-spa services vary so widely, there’s no set rates available. However, our office recently found coverage for a Florida medi-spa, run by a group of Florida physicians, that was roughly half of what they were paying before. The physicians were so impressed with the cost savings that they asked us to review their Florida liability insurance and we were able to find them additional cost savings.

Because the state has done such a good job at regulating the Florida liability insurance market, we highly recommend that a physician not “go bare” and, instead, purchases medical malpractice insurance. The availability of a wide variety of insurance options assures physicians in Florida that they should be able to find Florida liability insurance coverage at a reasonable rate.

If you would like to receive multiple quotes, please contact an agent at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com and we will send you a spreadsheet with all of our available rates.

More than Half of All Medical Malpractice Indemnity Payments Were Made by Six States

A recently released study of all medical malpractice payments made in 2011 indicates that six states accounted for more than half of all medical malpractice indemnifications. The analyzed data came from the National Practitioner Data Bank

That is an astonishing statistic. Which six states accounted for more than half of all medical malpractice indemnity payments is not a surprise. The highest malpractice payout was New York, followed by Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, Florida and California.

Not coincidentally, the states with the highest medical malpractice indemnity payments also have some of the highest medical malpractice insurance premiums. In some parts of New York and Florida, an obstetrician can be paying in excess of $200,000 in annual base rate medical liability premium.

Looking at base rate premiums in California, one can see how tort reform can keep medical malpractice insurance premiums affordable. While California paid out the sixth largest dollar total in medical liability indemnity, its medical malpractice insurance rates are comparatively inexpensive. An obstetrician practicing in the state’s most expensive county (Los Angeles County) for medical malpractice insurance can pay as little as $38,050 in base rate premium. The most expensive annual base rate premium in Los Angeles County hovers around $80,000. Compared to New York and Florida, those numbers are a steal.

The California Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has long been the gold standard in medical liability tort reform. Enacted in 1975, the law caps non-economic, pain-and-suffering damages at $250,000. The law also has other requirements that are intended to weed out frivolous lawsuits.

Other interesting statistics found in the study of 2011 medical malpractice payments include:

• The six states that make up the bottom of the malpractice indemnity payments (South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, North Dakota and Alaska) make up less than 1 percent of of total payouts.

• Slightly more than 36 percent of all medical malpractice indemnity payments are made to patients age 40 to 59 ($1.3 billion) , followed by patients age 20 to 30 ($786.3 million).

• In total, 58 percent of all medical malpractice indemnity payments were made to women; 42 percent of all indemnity payments were made to men.

• Medical malpractice indemnity payments have been declining since 2003.

• The total dollar amount of 2011 medical malpractice indemnity payments were slightly less than they were in 2010.

Florida Supreme Court to Rule on Non-Economic Damage Cap, Threaten Medical Malpractice Premiums

The Supreme Court of Florida recently heard oral arguments in the case Evette McCall v. United States of America. At the heart of the case is whether Florida’s cap on non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases is constitutional or not. Florida passed a $500,000 cap on non-economic damages in 2003. The amount would increase to $1 million in the event of a catastrophic injury or death.

The case originates from the 2006 death of Evette McCall, who died after childbirth due to blood loss. A jury awarded her estate $2 million in non-economic pain-and-suffering damages. The court then reduced the award to $1 million, in keeping with the 2003 Florida law.

The McCall estate is suing on the grounds that lowering the damages violated the estate’s constitutional right to a trial by jury and a jury verdict. Lawyers for the state argue that the cap on non-economic damages does not prohibit access to the courts, but rather simply regulates the size of verdicts.

Non-economic damage caps are effective in lowering medical malpractice insurance premiums because they add predictability to the marketplace. If an insurance company knows that there will not be any “super verdicts,” or verdicts that are in the multi-millions of dollars, they do not have to charge excesses malpractice premiums in order to be prepared for a super verdict.

Overturning the Florida cap on non-economic damages would be especially threatening to the affordability of medical malpractice insurance because it has the dubious distinction of having the nation’s most-expensive medical malpractice insurance premiums. In Miami-Dade, Fla., obstetricians pay annual base-rate premiums in excess of $200,000. Florida also boats the largest number of physicians practicing “bare,” or without any medical malpractice insurance coverage at all.

Florida has no restriction on the amount of time its Supreme Court can deliberate on a case, and there is no time frame as to when it might produce a verdict. So we are no in a waiting game.

Florida Legislature Fails to Pass Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Restrictions that Would Lower Medical Malpractice Costs

On March 9th, the Florida legislature adjourned its 2012 session without passing three anticipated healthcare liability bills. The liability bills would have dealt with assisted-living facilities, medical malpractice lawsuits and the dispensing of drugs to workers-comp patients.

Of greatest concern to the Florida Medical Association and its physician members was the bill dealing with medical malpractice lawsuits and defensive medicine. Senate Bill 1316 originally included a provision designed to make let doctors and other health providers sign agreements with their patients to take future malpractice claims to arbitration rather than jury trials. These agreements would also be able to set limits on damages. This provision was ultimately stripped out of the final bill due to protests by the trial lawyers bar.

Senate Bill 1316 did include other malpractice changes, including one that would make it more difficult to prove doctors are negligent for not performing supplemental diagnostic tests on patients. The Florida Medical Association argued that healthcare workers’ fear of being sued for malpractice causes them do to unnecessary, costly tests as a means of practicing defensive medicine. The Florida Medical Association argued that if Senate Bill 1316 were to pass, it would have a deflating effect on the overall cost of healthcare in the state.

The Florida Medical Association so wanted the bill to pass that it was willing to make a concession on one of its longstanding positions to garner the support of the optometry lobby. In the past, the Florida Medical Association regularly advised the state legislature that a patient who requires an oral drug should be under the care of a medical doctor to ensure the condition is properly diagnosed and treated. It was now willing to amend its stance on the matter, giving its blessing to optometrists being able to prescribe oral drugs after completing one-week’s coursework, primarily online.

This caused great distress to the Florida Society of Ophthalmology, which was categorically opposed to the compromise. Ultimately, Senate Bill 1316 was never voted on in the legislature, and will likely undergo much revision before it is reintroduced.

Florida Emergency Medicine Docs to Be Immune from Lawsuits?

ER with DefibrilatorA couple of weeks ago an interesting piece of legislation (SB 1506) was put forth in the Florida state senate. Sen. John Thrasher (R-St. Augustine) filed the measure to protect physicians by sovereign immunity from large Florida physician malpractice judgements. It notes the unique feature of emergency room physicians: they are required by law to treat any patient that shows up and unable to turn anyone away –and, as a result, that their Florida med mal coverage is very expensive.

More specifically, the law would make the Florida emergency medicine physicians agents of the state and would not have to pay more than $200,000 in a Florida med mal insurance claim. Victims who win awards larger than that would then have to seek the award from the Legislature. Also, the bill provides a higher standard of proof for claimants. Read the article for the details of the new standard. At MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com we are interested in this legislation, will continue to watch it, and will keep you posted.

We understand the demands on Florida emergency medicine physicians and that they don’t want to pay more than they have to for their emergency medicine med mal coverage. After all, physician med mal coverage is one of the biggest expenses physicians have. The agents here at MyMedicalMalpracticeInsurance.com are here for you and understand that you want to be informed about your Florida med mal coverage. Don’t hesitate to call us and discuss your emergency medicine med mal coverage needs today.

Florida Lawmakers Sponsor Bill to Stabilize Medical Malpractice System

The medical liability climate in Florida is a mess. Medical malpractice insurance in Miami’s Dade County is more expensive than any other in the nation, and the high cost of medical malpractice premiums influence too many doctors in the Sunshine State to choose to practice bare, without any liability insurance coverage at all. Add the estimated multi-billion-dollar annual cost of the state’s physician force practicing defensive medicine in hope of avoiding a lawsuit, and you have a bloated, inefficient and expensive medical malpractice system strangling the delivery of healthcare to all Floridians.

In recent months, a number of reform-minded organizations have been pushing a policy approach to the problem that would rework Florida’s medical malpractice system to align the interests of patients and their physicians, reduce costs and optimize the quality of healthcare. Now, two Florida legislators have teamed with those organizations to sponsor legislation that would rebuild the state’s system for compensating victims of medical negligence to more closely resemble Florida’s worker compensation system.

Senate Bill 1588/House Bill 1233, the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act, introduced by State Sen. Alan Hays and State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, would create a medical malpractice system to address malpractice compensation claims through an administrative—rather than litigious—process that aims to reduce medical errors, ensure the injured are fairly compensated and protect healthcare workers from unfair litigation.

The legislation proposed by Hays and Patronis would create a patients compensation system that would utilize a no-fault, state-driven approach modeled after the legal precedent of Florida’s worker compensation system to better align the interests of patients, doctors and taxpayers; lower healthcare costs by reducing the incidence of unnecessary tests and procedures currently ordered by healthcare workers seeking to protect themselves from potential lawsuits; and improve quality of patient medical care by establishing a system that realigns incentives toward patient safety and a reduction in medical errors, while assuring all patient complaints are heard and quickly resolved. The system would also ensure more patients are fairly compensated.

The proposed legislation has been enthusiastically endorsed by Florida physicians. According to polling by Oppenheim Research, 93 percent of the state’s healthcare workforce supports the system outlined in the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act. Many of those physicians cite the burdensome cost of medical malpractice insurance as the biggest stress on their practice. Senate Bill 1588/House Bill 1233 promises to have a deflating effect on medical liability insurance because the legislation would add predictability to the length of process, dollar size of verdicts and outcome of medical liability disputes.

Florida Considering Patient Compensation System to Lower Medical Malpractice Insurance Costs

Last week, a Florida state senator and representative proposed legislation intended to replace the current, broken medical malpractice system in the state with an administrative structure modeled after the workers compensation system. Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Jimmy Patronis say that the current medical liability process is adversarial, expensive and inefficient, and the legislation they propose would deflate the cost of medical malpractice insurance and eliminate up to $40 billion per year of medically unnecessary medical costs in Florida.

 

The Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act (SB 1588/HB 1233) would address malpractice compensation claims through an administrative process that would be modeled after the state’s workers compensation system, aligning the shared interests of patients, doctors and taxpayers. The new system would eliminate the practice of defensive medicine, increase the quality of Florida healthcare and ensure real access to justice for those legitimately harmed by healthcare workers. This new system is widely expected to also have a deflating effect on the medical malpractice insurance costs.

 

The Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act was inspired by Patients for Fair Compensation, a nonpartisan Section 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to educating and engaging citizens and policymakers on the negative impact on patient care due to defensive medicine—the practice of ordering medical tests, procedures or consultations of doubtful clinical value in order to protect the prescribing physician fro malpractice lawsuits. According to the organization’s website, SB 1588/HB 1233 would strengthen patients’ rights, ensure real access to real justice for all patients and ensure all patient complaints are heard through an easily navigable administrative system that will cost less than litigation and yield compensation quicker and more often.

 

As Patients for Fair Compensation visualize implementation of the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act, the system would utilize a no-fault, state-driven approach modeled after the legal precedent of the workers compensation system to better align all of the interests of Florida’s citizens, lower healthcare costs by reducing the incidence of unnecessary procedures ordered by healthcare providers seeking to protect themselves from potential lawsuits and improve the quality of healthcare by establishing a system that realigns incentives toward patient safety and a reduction in medical errors. This would also have the beneficial effect of reducing medical malpractice insurance costs.

 

Sen. Alan Hays and Rep. Jimmy Patronis have filed and introduced the Compensation for Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Arising Out of Medical Injury Act. It has been referred to the Civil Justice, Health & Human Services, Appropriations and Judiciary Committees. SB 1588/HB 1233 is expected to be voted upon during the 2012 legislative session.

A Plan to Handle Medical Malpractice Similar to Workers Comp

side note: This is a very interesting proposal by the James Madison Institute because they are addressing the cost of defensive medicine in an intellectually honest way. The report acknowledges that caps on non-economic damages are effective at lowering medical malpractice insurance rates, but not at lowering the instances of defensive medicine, which add to the overall cost of healthcare. The James Madison institute is a Florida-based public policy research institute dedicated to federalism and economic freedom.

According to the James Madison Institute, defensive medicine — the act of ordering unnecessary tests on the off-chance that a physician might be sued for medical negligence at a future date — can add billions to Florida’s healthcare costs. The report also states that far from promoting patient safety, the current tort system discourages accurate reporting  of medical errors; it also concedes that the court system is ineffective and slow.

Rather than handling medical negligence cases in the court system, the James Madison Institute recommends that Florida create a patient compensation system similar to the state’s workers compensation system. Under the patients’ compensation system, malpractice claims would be reviewed by a medical review board, and victims of medical malpractice would be awarded compensation by the board. A quality improvement council would analyze the causes of medical errors and establish standards for best practices that would work to end the practice of defensive medicine..

The James Madison Institute argues that this type of a patient compensation system would speed up litigation resolution, ensure injured patients are compensated and weed out frivolous lawsuits.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Nov. 16, 2011 — /PRNewswire/ — The James Madison Institute today released a study in partnership with Patients for Fair Compensation. Titled “Alternative Solutions to Florida’s Medical Malpractice System” the report details the negative impact on patient care due to the practice of defensive medicine. Citing case law and recent quantitative studies, the JMI report reveals a Florida tort system that is deeply flawed…

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ATRA Releases Annual List of Juducial Hellholes, Motivates Medical Malpractice Reform

side note: This week, the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) released its annual Judicial Hellholes Report. Since 2002, the Judicial Hellholes Report has documented in annually published reports various abuses within the civil justice system, focusing primarily on jurisdictions where courts are radically out of balance. This list has been an invaluable tool in educating state and local politicians about out-of-control jurisdictions that impede business and threaten access to healthcare. It has also motivated legislative reform of medical malpractice laws across the country.

No surprise, Philadelphia topped the Judicial Hellholes list for 2011/2012. Known for its tradition of venue shopping, weak joint-and-several liability as well as disproportionate jury verdicts, the City of Brotherly Love has been in the ATRA’s sites for some time. Of course, South Florida made the list as well as perennial Hellholes like Cook, Madison and St. Clair Counties in Illinois.

What’s new to this year’s report is an expanded “Points of Light” section, where states that have made tort reform advances get their props. And this year, there has been a lot of tort reform props to go around.

This year might someday be looked back upon as the year of tort reform. Riding a red wave of conservatism in the 2010 elections, new Republican majorities in statehouses across the country tackled lawsuit reform with gusto. More than 40 new tort reform measures passed in states across the country, including “big wins” in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, among others.

Washington, DC, December 15, 2011 — The American Tort Reform Association today released its annual Judicial Hellholes report, documenting abuses of the civil justice system in jurisdictions it says are among the most unfair and out-of-balance in the nation.

Editor’s note: This article was removed from the ATRA’s website. Here is a link to the full report.

More On an Alternative Florida Med Mal System

Physician's ToolsThe James Madison Institute just released an interesting study entitled, Alternative Solutions to Florida’s
Medical Malpractice System
. The report begins by outlining nothing new: a flawed Florida tort system, physician liability insurance cases that take years to resolve, and awards that are dramatically inconsistent. It describes a system that discourages the reporting of errors and, instead, encourages physicians to cover themselves in case of a potential med mal lawsuit by ordering excessive tests, procedures and specialty consultations.

Interestingly, the Institute suggested creating a “Patients’ Compensation System,” much like that of a Workers’ Compensation system. The new system would completely take the Florida court system out of the Florida med mal landscape. Instead, cases would go to a medical review board, and a patients’ compensation board would make awards. Then –this is the really interesting part –a quality improvement board (of sorts) would review the errors that occurred and then work to establish best practices to prevent those errors from recurring.

I may be a bit cynical, but I am not sure how good of an idea this is –noble as it is. It seems to me that hundreds of different errors will be reviewed –all of them with their unique situations and circumstances. And, even if some of those errors could be grouped to together and appear more often than others, is it always necessary or appropriate to then establish new “best practices?” What if best practices already exist (never mind the discussion about which organization drafted them)? Would new ones need to be drafted? While I appreciate the goal of minimizing and not repeating errors, it seems like it might create some unnecessary or duplicate work –and isn’t the point of this new program to save resources?