The frequency of malpractice claims against hospitals has declined slightly and the severity of those claims is leveling off, according to a report from Zurich, the insurance company.
The fifth annual Zurich benchmarking report on claims trends in the healthcare industry, which collected data from 1,600 U.S. hospitals between 1997 and 2007, indicates that claims severity, or the average amount per claim, has stabilized over the past several years, with an average annual rise over the past 11 years of 4%.
Zurich also reports that teaching and children’s hospitals have higher claim severity than acute care community hospitals and outpatient facilities. Non-profit hospitals have the lowest severity; and among non-profits, faith-based institutions have the lowest severity of all.
Leo Carroll, head of Health Specialty Products, Zurich North America Commercial, says:
“It’s interesting to note that severity does continue to rise among claims valued under $1 million, which are the claims considered more typical within an institution’s loss experience, while the most severe claims (those valued above $1 million and $5 million) have stabilized overall, the frequency of those large losses has increased slightly.”
Carroll also noted that the most severity prone states continue to be New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Gov. Edward G. Rendell has vetoed a bill that would have frozen primary medical malpractice insurance limits for 7 years, saying the bill would destabilize the medical malpractice insurance marketplace and undermine the state’s ability to attract and retain medical providers. According to Rendell:
“We have worked very hard in the last eight years to get to this new, improved place in which medical malpractice claims are down, insurance coverage is more available and affordable, and the number of medical providers is increasing. I vetoed Senate Bill 1280 because I do not want to impede that progress or put our doctors at risk. Further study, analysis and public input are warranted before implementing the changes contemplated in this bill.”
You’ll find the complete Zurich report here.