Medical Malpractice Insurance – Remember to Review Before You Renew!
Few physicians, if any, would argue that it’s important to ensure no lapse in your medical malpractice insurance coverage. Too many, though, fail to put as much attention where it’s desperately needed – when it’s time to renew their policy.
A thorough review of the proposed coverage is essential, whenever your policy is due for renewal. Premiums and levels of coverage can change, sometimes in your favor, sometimes not. There are many factors that can affect the level of protection your med mal insurance affords you and its cost to your practice.
One aspect of your new policy that should be carefully reviewed is the premium. Insurance carriers make changes that affect their premium rates often to reflect market changes, so a failure to check your premium could result in you paying more than you should for the coverage provided. A qualified broker who is familiar with current developments in the med mal arena can often find significant savings for your business.
Don’t immediately happily accept a renewal, just because your premium is lower than it was the previous year. What if some procedure that is central to your practice is now excluded? What if some aspect of your costs no longer count toward a claim deductible? Total potential costs must be considered to avoid facing a situation that could financially ruin you and your practice.
A very detailed review should be directed at your coverage. Don’t be satisfied to simply compare past and present caps and classifications. The policy itself should be reviewed meticulously, as exclusions or other adjustments may reduce or remove altogether your protection against certain issues that could arise with a medical malpractice insurance claim.
Covered items can vary periodically, as insurers attempt to limit their risks. Here again, a professional who is intimately familiar with your type of coverage is best able to compare your present coverage with the proposed renewal policy and define the effects of any changes, allowing you to make an informed decision.
3. Practice Profile
As the insured, you are normally required to inform your insurer of any substantial changes in the profile of services your practice provides. Such changes could include such things as adding an ultrasound machine, changing to a different model of X-ray machine, adding elementary lab tests in-house or even a new, computerized version of maintaining patient records or diagnostic data. Adding a new location or relocating your practice must also be reported promptly.
Failure to notify your insurance provider of changes can leave you vulnerable to denial of insurance. If a claim results in connection with any undisclosed item, there’s a very real possibility that the claim will be denied as uncovered, leaving you holding the liability bag.
To protect your practice, notify your insurer of any changes in equipment, procedures, third party services or in-house programs – essentially, any aspect of your business that can have any effect whatsoever on a patients diagnosis, treatment or records, whether direct or indirect. It’s better to over-report than to miss something that could be considered pertinent to a claim.
Any changes to your staff should be promptly reported to your insurer, as well. Any employee not shown on the roster in your carrier’s files can be declared uncovered. That means that any claim in which that staff member was involved, in any way, could potentially be denied.
Even a staff member that never interacts with patients can affect your coverage, should a claim be filed. The safest way to protect yourself is to immediately report all changes in personnel or their functions to your insurance carrier, to remove any risk of this. Again… too much reporting is far better than not enough.
Having your broker assist you in reviewing your policy can forestall possible future problems by spotting discrepancies before they can become an issue. Make your broker a member of your team, so that in the event of a claim, you have an advocate that will help you protect your practice. The insurance carrier certainly has people looking out for their best interests – don’t you deserve the same?
Most reviews will detect differences, even if relatively minor. Yet most physicians don’t review their policies regularly. What that can mean is that a great many physicians are either paying too much for their medical malpractice insurance or their coverage is no longer protecting them to the same degree they believe it does.
With malpractice claims increasing in numbers and the size of settlements reaching ridiculous levels, it’s natural that med mal insurance companies are constantly looking at ways to minimize their risk. The single most effective manner within their control to do so is to limit the claims for which they may have to pay out. Their goals, therefore, can be in conflict with the physician’s.
To the extent that you and your insurer share the same vulnerability, an argument can be made that you’re on the same side. Don’t take that for granted, though… when they can remove themselves from a vulnerable position, they may do so.
Protect yourself and your practice by going through your policy thoroughly and often, ensuring that you have the coverage you need, should you ever face a claim. Don’t jeopardize that coverage by not adhering to your obligations to notify your insurer of changes in staff or your practice’s profile. Giving these five tips the attention they deserve can provide security and peace of mind, possibly saving you from financial disaster.
About The Author: Jim Cunningham is the President and CEO of Cunningham Group. Jim began his career as an underwriter for the Insurance Company of North America in 1973. In 1975 he joined J. H. Cunningham Insurance Agency and has become one of the nation’s leading agents specializing in medical malpractice insurance. Cunningham Group now provides insurance services for medical professionals and practices. Founded in 1947 as a physician focused agency, Cunningham Group provides medical malpractice insurance, business owner policies, worker’s comp and employee benefits packages.