Physicians need to consider many factors when shopping for malpractice insurance, and while price is often the primary consideration, it is important to look deeper into the differences in coverage.
Diane Robben, JD, an attorney with Sandberg Phoenix’s medical malpractice group who advises independent physicians and their practices on buying insurance, argues that doctors are making a mistake if they focus only on price.
“There are many other differentiating factors that insurance companies compete on besides price,” she says. “Many insurance companies are offering value-add services such as risk analysis, policy review, online training and other services to compete and stand apart. Don’t be afraid to shop around.”
Bill Fleming, chief operating officer of The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance company headquartered in Napa, California, says it’s important for physicians to review a company’s history to learn how aggressive the carrier is in fighting claims.
The Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) and actuarial firms publish aggregated claims information that can be used to benchmark insurer results to some extent. Many insurers also publish their own claims data, including trial results, dismissals and claims settled.
No matter which company physicians choose, experts advise four key steps before signing a contract.
Four considerations before buying
1. Talk to colleagues
Daniel Cavanaugh, assistant vice president of membership development for malpractice insurer Cooperative of American Physicians Inc., says young physicians going into private practice generally search the internet for information and coverage options or ask a colleague for a carrier or broker recommendation. Both of these, he notes, are a good start. Meanwhile, mid-career and older physicians are often more familiar with the insurance market and will gravitate toward carriers that have been in the marketplace for many years
Older physicians are also more likely to seek coverage through an intermediary such as an insurance broker or financial adviser.