While no one really knows the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Medical Malpractice Insurance in Florida, some assumptions can be made.
As more people become insured, the number of medical malpractice claims against physicians and surgeons will increase. Compounding the issue is the fact that these newly-insured individuals are largely unfamiliar with the healthcare system.
The doctor-patient relationship is diminishing as expanded-care teams take over at different steps of the patient’s treatment program. For instance, nurses are taking on larger roles in the doctor’s office, and hospitalists, doctors who monitor the hospital stays of patients, are taking on medical center duties. The physician may diagnose a patient’s problem and then show up again for the out-of-hospital follow-up.
As a result of the Affordable Care Act, the Accountable Care Organization, ACO, model is gaining traction. Hospitals are purchasing smaller physician practices, hiring the doctors and nurses, and blending them all into ACOs. Patients are far less likely to be treated by and develop a trusting relationship with a single physician. Rather, the patient sees a number of professionals as he moves through the system.
Insurance Companies who specialize in medical malpractice insurance see this loss of personal connection to the patient by the medical community as ripe for med mal claims.
On the other hand, as hospitals buy up small physician practices around the country, the market for medical malpractice insurance shrinks. The hospitals who employ the physicians and surgeons pick up more of the risk. Insurers will be forced to compete harder for clients, creating pressure on rates.
Meanwhile, the ACO will standardize treatment methods. Some of this standardization will be good. Some will not be sound. The deep-pocketed hospitals will risk exposure to extreme lawsuits similar to the asbestos lawsuits of the 1980’s.
In addition to all this, the country is experiencing demographic changes which will surely impact medical malpractice insurance companies.
- Americans are aging and requiring more care, thereby stressing the already overburdened system and a growing doctor shortage.
- Physicians are also aging. Younger physicians want a better work/life balance which entails shorter working hours.
- Americans are experiencing more obesity, leading to more diabetes, heart issues, cancer, and knee and joint problems.
All of these trends, and others we cannot anticipate, will lead to greater medical malpractice exposures in the years ahead. Based on an article in the Insurance Journal-National, June 16, 2014.