Univera Healthcare Report on the Cost of Medical Malpractice Coverage in New York State

Medical malpractice premiums for physicians in different regions of the state can vary as much as five times the amount paid between regions and the difference can exceed $100,000 for some specialties, according to ananalysis issued today by Univera Healthcare.

“Medical malpractice rates for upstate New York physicians are considerably less than those in downstate regions and are similar to the amounts paid by physicians in states that report the lowest premium rates in the country,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., vice president and chief medical officer, Univera Healthcare.

“The Facts About New York State Medical Malpractice Coverage Premiums” shows that the standard malpractice premium for an internist in Buffalo, Syracuse, Binghamton and Utica ($9,874) is significantly lower than for an internist practicing on Long Island ($35,028). A similar differential exists for physicians in other specialties. For example, a general surgeon’s premium rate in those same upstate areas is $32,663, contrasted with a Long Island surgeon’s rate of $115,872; and obstetricians/gynecologists in many upstate regions may pay $52,650, while their Long Island counterparts face a standard rate of $186,772.

Physicians pose varying risks of liability based on their specialty, experience factors and the experience of other physicians in the regions where they practice medicine. Standard rates are reviewed and approved by the New York State Insurance Department.

From the standard rates, discounts, credits, experience factors and other considerations are used to determine the actual premium paid by individual physicians. The data presented in the fact sheet for New York state physicians is based on current standard premium rates of the Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Co., which insures most physicians in the state.

Standard medical malpractice premiums for typical physicians in New York state are referred to as “occurrence policies” that provide up to $1.3 million in liability coverage for a single injury and up to $3.9 million for a single policy year.

“Regardless of the regional differences in premium rates, physicians and hospitals that pay their physicians’ medical malpractice insurance premiums believe that the rates are too high and want to see them lowered by reforms to the state’s tort system,” Vienne said. The fact sheet reviews reports that provide cost estimates on the impact that malpractice insurance coverage and defensive medicine may have on total health care spending.

“We share physicians’ concerns about malpractice premium rates,” Vienne said. Univera Healthcare has advocated, together with such organizations as the Medical Society of the State of New York and The Business Council of New York State, for tort reforms that would help lower medical malpractice costs and other liability expenses faced by businesses in the state.

One step taken this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the New York state Legislature to help address rising malpractice insurance costs – particularly in response to downstate hospital pleas for help – was the establishment of a statewide medical indemnity fund to cover medical expenses for eligible children with birth-related neurological injuries.

The report issued today shows the various rating regions of the state and compares three common physician specialties. It also indicates states that have higher and lower malpractice insurance rates than those in New York.

A free copy of the “The Facts About New York State Medical Malpractice Coverage Premiums” fact sheet can be downloaded at univerahealthcare.com/factsheets.