Med mal rate article does not reflect the reality of practice in Richmond

LETTER — Posted Jan. 5, 2004

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Regarding "Physicians feel double-digit pain," (Article, Nov. 10):

Your recent article misleads physicians seeking a locality where med mal rates are the lowest.

The average filed rates for several medical specialties in Richmond, Va., are:

Internal medicine: $8,503

General surgery: $31,340

Ob-gyn: $48,083

Neurology-surgery: $54,745

These rates do not include the rates of companies that were active in 1998 but have since gone bankrupt or ceased to write med mal because of adverse financial results.

In the last five years we have lost six major liability insurers and several smaller ones.

While our med mal cap is $1.7 million per claim, of the seven insurers still open to writing med mal, we are not aware of any who will write a policy for the capped amount. Instead physicians must purchase a minimum of $2 million per claim and $5.1 million aggregate.

Malpractice insurers in Virginia (Richmond no exception) have taken large rate increases in the last two years, averaging 51% in 2002 and 30% in 2003. The impact on physicians has been severe.

We find it incredible that Richmond -- an East Coast city of more than 1 million, can be legitimately compared with Midwestern and Western agricultural states.

We find it equally incredible that our rates would be considered among the lowest in the nation.

Isaac L. Wornom III, MD, president

Barklie Zimmerman, MD, president-elect, Richmond Academy of Medicine, Richmond, Va.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2004/01/05/edlt0105.htm.

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