High malpractice insurance rates could run off doctors - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

High malpractice insurance rates could run off doctors

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January 7, 2003

Albany - Malpractice insurance premiums have sky rocketed, forcing doctors to pack up and leave. Between Medicaid, Medicare and lawsuits, some doctors are not making enough money to continue taking care of patients.

We've seen it recently in other states. In West Virginia, more than a dozen surgeons from several hospitals took a 30 day leave of absence to protest malpractice lawsuits. Protests haven't happened here in Southwest Georgia, but doctors are still feeling the same financial frustrations. The high insurance premiums may make some doctor's quit.

Doctor Michael Stechison is a neurosurgeon in Albany. High Malpractice Insurance premiums are a major pain in this doctor's back. He explains, "My insurance used to be under 100,000. I have tripled and more than tripled this past year."

Doctor Stechison says the word malpractice is deceiving...he would rather call it liability insurance. He says, "When you use the term malpractice it implies somebody has failed to provide basic standard care."

Many doctors are feeling a tight financial squeeze between too many lawsuits and a major decline in reimbursements. Doctor Stechison says, "When we look at Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements in my specialty. We are reimbursed 10 cents on the dollar of our usual bill."

Doctor Stechison admits they have been forced to cut back services in order to afford insurance. He says, "We're seriously going to have to look at wether we can afford to keep providing service to this area."

Other options, turn away Medicare and Medicaid patients or profile new patients to identify those who have tendencies to sue.

Doctor Stechison says Neurosurgery is the most sued specialty in all of medicine and has the highest insurance rates. This area only has three neurosurgeons, if they leave, patients will have to be airlifted to other centers.

posted at 5:15PM by kathryn.simmons@walb.com