June 9, 2005

Insurance Costs Could Trigger Ob/Gyn Shortage

Premiums in some areas top $200,000 annually, study finds

HealthDay News -- Soaring malpractice insurance premiums are discouraging many doctors from specializing in obstetrics and gynecology and also affecting where obstetricians are offering their services, a new study finds.

High insurance costs may eventually lead to a shortage of obstetricians, the researchers warn.

"The high cost of malpractice premiums is beginning to lead providers to drop or reduce obstetrical services. Our study presented evidence that high malpractice premiums affect where new obstetricians are locating and it may affect the supply in the future," senior author Dr. Scott B. Ransom said in a prepared statement.

"There is a legitimate reason for concern about patients' access to obstetric care and prenatal care in the future," added Ransom, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Michigan Medical School, and of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health.

Potential areas with looming obstetric-care shortages include states with the highest malpractice premiums such as Florida, Nevada, Michigan and New York, as well as the District of Columbia, the study found.

In 2004, Florida's average malpractice premium was $195,000, compared to about $17,000 in Oklahoma, one of the lowest-premium states.

Counties with large cities also have high malpractice premiums. For example, Dade County in Florida, which includes the city of Miami, had an average malpractice premium of $277,000 in 2004, according to the study.

These findings and those from other studies point to the need to make changes to control the high cost of malpractice insurance for obstetricians and other specialists, Ransom said.

"Something has to be done about the skyrocketing cost of malpractice premiums in our field. We are going to lose some of the best and brightest doctors who otherwise might enter this field, and we are going to face shortages in many areas of the country if something is not done," he warned.

The study is published in the June issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

More information

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has more about medical liability costs.