Medical Liability Monitor’s 2014 Annual Rate Survey Indicates the Medical Professional Liability Insurance Industry’s Decade-Long Premium Decline Continues with No Indication of a Course Correction in Sight
According to just-released data from the 2014 Medical Liability Monitor Annual Rate Survey, the medical professional liability (medical malpractice) insurance industry’s premiums continue to slowly erode. Nationwide, internal medicine physicians saw an average rate reduction of 1.6 percent, while general surgeons had a 1.3-percent average rate drop and OB/Gyns saw their rates fall by an average of 1.7 percent.
“For almost a decade, medical malpractice insurance rates have been declining while industry profits remain historically high,” said Michael Matray, editor of the Medical Liability Monitor. “While many attribute the declining rates to increased competition for a shrinking market, the industry’s historic profitability has been buoyed by historically low claims frequency and indemnity severity as well as healthy reserve releases. While no one knows when – or if – claims frequency and severity will tick upward, data suggests there could be another year-and-a-half to two years of reserve releases at levels similar to those released of late. Until those releases come to a conclusion, one can expect this soft market to continue.”
According to this year’s Annual Rate Survey data, a majority of rates did not change—up or down—compared to 2013. Sixty-five percent of all manual rates stayed the same, a 7.4-point increase from the percentage that did not budge last year. As they have since 2006, rate declines significantly outnumbered, and were generally more severe, than rate increases. For the tenth-straight year, most increases were in the 0.1- to 9.9-percent range, a slight increase from the 11 percent of all increases residing in that range last year. A scant 0.1 percent of rates increased in the 10 to 24.9 percent increase range, significantly lower than 2012’s 2.4 percent rise for this range. There were no rate increases in any of the larger ranges this year, whereas a very small 0.3 percent of 2013 rates increased in the 25 to 49.9 percent range.
On a regional basis, the Northeast was the only area of the U.S. to see an average increase in rates: an underwhelming 0.1 percent, lower than last year’s 0.7 percent regional increase. The Western states experienced a 4.1 percent average rate decrease, a noticeably larger fall than the 1.2 percent drop recorded in 2013. Both the Midwest and South had an average 0.7-percent drop.
“No one in the industry believes the current situation can continue forever,” wrote Chad Karls, author of the “Executive Summary” to this year’s Annual Rate Survey. “Eventually something will happen to cause a turn in the road. Either rates will eventually – if slowly – drop so far as to become unsustainable or some unexpected, unpredictable Black Swan event will spark a sudden rush to raise rates aggressively.”