Medical malpractice insurance costs usually vary by jurisdiction. In fact, the difference in price from one area to the next can be extraordinary. Another significant factor may be a doctor's specialty. Obstetricians and surgeons, for example, usually pay a significantly higher premium than general care physicians who do not perform surgery. This is because certain specialties are at a greater risk for claims of misconduct than others, and the cost is factored accordingly.
Just as rates may vary between automobile insurance providers, malpractice insurance costs also differ among policy writers. There are different types of coverage a healthcare provider may select, including an option to increase or decrease policy limits. An area's population as well as the number of lawsuits filed collectively also account for variations in malpractice insurance costs. Additionally, premiums may fluctuate on an annual basis, once the prior year's trends are considered.
Malpractice insurance costs are generally higher for doctors who perform surgical procedures. The reason for this is that there is a greater potential for mistakes to occur in operating rooms and hospital settings. Procedures that require anesthesia, for example, pose a greater risk to patients. If too much anesthetic is administered, it may cause complications or death. Similarly, a patient may die if he is given the wrong type of blood during a transfusion.
Obstetrics is another specialty in which malpractice insurance costs are higher. Complications during labor and delivery may cause birth defects or death to a mother and her child. Doctors may be sued when a patient or family member believes that the occurrence resulted from negligence.
While insurance companies often generalize the risk assessment of physicians, usually based on both jurisdiction and specialty, malpractice insurance costs may also be factored on the individual doctor's claim history. For example, a surgeon who has been the defendant in multiple lawsuits will likely pay very high premiums. A doctor who has never been accused of malpractice may be charged much less than some of his peers.
In jurisdictions where malpractice insurance costs are high, some doctors choose not to carry the coverage at all. There are some significant downsides to this. Legal ramifications may be devastating for a doctor who is sued. If he is found guilty of malpractice, a physician may be required to forfeit his home and turn over assets in order to pay the prevailing party. Furthermore, hospitals may not allow doctors to practice in their facilities if they are not covered by insurance.