When drivers get behind the wheel, it is possible that they could cause injuries to others. So, the law rightly requires them to carry insurance. When doctors and hospitals make medical mistakes, they can cause life-altering injuries and even death to their patients, so it is only reasonable that they be required to carry professional liability insurance to cover the cost of damages. However, in Illinois, unlike most states, there is no such statutory requirement.
It is a basic principle of our legal system that negligent parties should not be able to evade responsibility for the damages they cause. Yet the lack of a legal requirement for medical malpractice insurance means that individual doctors and even some hospitals can choose to “go bare,” or purposely choose to forgo carrying insurance. These practitioners may form a corporation and then file for bankruptcy – or threaten to file – if they are sued, leaving injured patients with no recourse.
The vast majority of medical professionals in Illinois do carry insurance. Most hospitals and many managed care plans require it. However, the lack of a state legal requirement means that some patients will not be able to obtain compensation if a medial error causes them injury.
The state of Illinois does not keep records of how many doctors are uninsured. In Florida, another state that does not require such insurance, about 5 percent of doctors choose to go bare. However, Florida requires doctors without insurance to obtain an irrevocable line of credit to cover malpractice claims and to post a notice in their offices informing patients that they do not have insurance. Illinois has no such requirements. Doctors and hospitals may claim that they are self-insured, meaning that they have sufficient resources to cover malpractice claims, but when a lawsuit is filed, they may still threaten bankruptcy.
Doctors cite the high cost of medical malpractice premiums as the reason they forgo insurance. Premiums are indeed high, and at least part of the blame lies with the insurance companies. Insurers often claim that they are forced to raise premiums because of high payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits, but in fact, they have raised rates out of proportion to payouts – and even increased premiums when paid claims are declining.
If insurance companies are fleecing doctors, state regulation of insurers can resolve the conflict. However, this injustice, however real, should not be used as an excuse to allow medical professionals to evade their responsibilities. Illinois should join other states in requiring all doctors and hospitals practicing in the state to carry medical malpractice insurance.
Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.