In the national and the regional debate on health reforms, cost containment strategies focus on reducing unnecessary utilization of services, encouraging coordinated care, primary care health promotion and disease prevention, health information technology and workforce retraining. Yet, strategies to contain medical malpractice costs have been addressed tangentially at best.
The cost of medical malpractice can have a profound impact not just on physicians’ practice decisions, but also on the cost of and access to care most particularly in medically underserved communities in New York City.
Sandford D. Elsass, President of J.M. Woodworth RRG, mentions that the American Medical Association reports 21 states are in “crisis” due to the malpractice liability climate. New York has been at the top of that list for many years. As a result, patients are losing access to care because New York medical malpractice premiums are forcing physicians to retire early, relocate or give up performing high-risk medical procedures.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Medical Society of the State of New York say that with malpractice insurance premiums rising, the dwindling number of Obstetricians that can afford to practice in New York has reached crisis proportions.
As a result, these physicians are leaving New York in favor of states with more favorable malpractice insurance rates or becoming risk adverse by limiting their practice. Unless this situation is rectified quickly there will be a limited number of doctors practicing obstetrics in New York.
Without adequate competition, New York medical malpractice premiums will spike and physicians will continue to leave practice or limit their practice to gynecology, particularly in those communities with limited access to care. Just as patients in medically underserved communities should have choice as to where and how they access their care, the same should follow where physicians have s choice regarding the premiums they pay.
In response to unaffordable medical malpractice insurance for physicians, J.M. Woodworth, RRG, Inc. was created and has saved physicians in New York thousands of dollars on their malpractice premiums. The company creates a favorable malpractice environment attracting and retaining highly skilled OB/GYN’s and other physician specialties that are able to maintain viable practices.
The savings have made it possible for many physicians and surgeons to continue practicing. Currently, J.M. Woodworth RRG, Inc. has insured OB/GYN physicians in Staten Island, The Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan with premiums based upon limit of liability of $1.3M/$3.9M; mature claims made coverage. The premium range is based on credits for claims history, board certification state, EMR use and group discounts. The premium range for Manhattan consists of $112,725-$138,964, while the range for Staten Island, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn is $133,715-$164,836.
J.M. Woodworth, RRG, Inc. uses aggressive risk management in order to keep premiums competitively priced. However, other strategies should be taken for insurance companies, providers, regulators and legislatures. It is essential to continually examine trends in high-risk specialties to reduce New York medical malpractice liabilities. Reducing premiums to retain practicing physicians and encourage the return of physicians to New York, along with, but not limited to having proper consent to help provide or bolster a defense of a claim.
An effective risk management team helps facilities and practitioners reduce losses and avoid claims. J.M. Woodworth’s risk management philosophy is based on the clinical integration of services with executive management to control New York medical malpractice liability. The company’s Risk Management Evaluation Process helps to identify systemic, embedded issues that require immediate attention while highlighting areas that are potential problems or concerns. Members of the professional risk management staff visit facilities, clinics, and physicians/surgeons for hands-on review and consultation.
J.M. Woodworth establishes medical malpractice committees that work with executive leadership who are empowered to set realistic reserves after consultation. All cases are discussed with New York medical malpractice attorneys in order to prevent re-occurrences of potential New York medical malpractice incidents as well as being incorporated into the risk management training program.
President of the Medical Insurance Division of Paris Kirwan Associates