side note: We have decided to update our state pages but I wanted to make sure that some of our past information was still available. We work with Universities all over the country, and many Professors rely on our data.
South Carolina Medical Malpractice Insurance
While the rates for medical malpractice insurance in South Carolina are amongst the lowest in the nation, they have been rising and patients may soon find it increasingly difficult to find a doctor, especially as physicians pull out of higher-risk areas like surgery and obstetrics. Already, some say, it’s leading to an increase in healthcare costs.
Crises in a number of states — including a recent strike by surgeons in West Virginia and the resignation of surgeons in Las Vegas that led to the temporary closure of a trauma center there — have put medical malpractice insurance rates on the national radar screen.
By comparison, South Carolina’s problems seem benign. Medical malpractice insurance rates are relatively low. In Florida, obstetricians can pay more than $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance. In South Carolina, they pay less than $30,000.
Yet that is much higher than it had been historically. In 1998, an obstetrician paid less than $10,000 annually. The higher premiums are stunning doctors whose reimbursements for services rendered have remained flat or eroded over the same time.
Across the nation, there is debate as to the cause of the rising medical malpractice insurance premiums. Many, including physicians, point to higher jury awards. Lawyers and others point the finger in a different direction, citing insurance company management, the stock market and even Sept. 11th.
In South Carolina, some say much of the problem is due to years of too-low premiums at the JUA and the PCF, of which the bulk of doctors in the state are members.
South Carolina did pass S83 in 2005, which places a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages. South Carolina still ranks at 43rd, which is well below the national average for tort reform.
“The rates were unrealistically low for a long period of time,” said Ellis Kahn, a Charleston attorney who often represents patients in medical malpractice cases.
Kahn said frivolous lawsuits aren’t leading to the higher rates. He said the cost of filing a claim is so much that attorneys aren’t going to take a case unless it has merit.
Nevertheless, there are more claims in this state. Richard Lane, executive director of the JUA and the PCF, said the number of claims increased by 25 percent last year. He also said the amount of the claims is increasing, though he couldn’t provide an amount.
Though officials say the problem in South Carolina hasn’t reached the level it has in places like Nevada or West Virginia, there is fear that it could reach that point if nothing is done, especially if some big verdicts get handed down.
Association members say rising medical malpractice insurance costs are driving doctors from South Carolina. They want lawmakers to limit how much money injured patients can win in court.
The number of physicians in South Carolina is growing rapidly, despite predictions to the contrary. The number has grown three times faster than the South Carolina’s general population during the past decade, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the State Budget and Control Board.
Although some physicians say lawsuits and medical malpractice insurance are making their work unprofitable, physicians remain the highest-paid workers in the state, according to federal labor statistics.
Obstetrician-gynecologists make the most, earning an average $202,650 a year in South Carolina, more than twice as much as lawyers, who make $95,220 on average.
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