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As the cost of malpractice insurance continues to increase in many states, physicians in private practice may want to take advantage of discounts insurers offer to reduce premiums.

Getting a better deal might simply mean taking advantage of incentives and discounts your insurer may already offer. These include claims-free, lithium technologies inc competition new-to-practice, and working part-time discounts.

However, if you decide to shop around, keep in mind that discounts are just one factor that can affect your premium price — insurers look at your specialty, location, and claims history.

One of the most common ways physicians can earn discounts is by participating in risk management programs. With this type of program, physicians evaluate elements of their practice and documentation practices and identify areas that might leave them at risk for a lawsuit. While they save money, physician risk management programs also are designed to reduce malpractice claims, which ultimately minimizes the potential for bigger financial losses, insurance experts say.

“It’s a win-win situation when liability insurers and physicians work together to minimize risk, and it’s a win for patients,” said Gary Price, MD, president of The Physicians Foundation.

Doctors in private practice or employed by small hospitals that are not self-insured can qualify for these discounts, said David Zetter, president of Zetter HealthCare Management Consultants.

“I do a lot of work with medical malpractice companies trying to find clients policies. All the carriers are transparent about what physicians have to do to lower their premiums. Physicians can receive the discounts if they follow through and meet the insurer’s requirements,” said Zetter.

State insurance departments regulate medical malpractice insurance, including the premium credits insurers offer. Most states cap discounts at 25%, but some go as high as 70%, according to The Doctors Company, a national physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.

Insurers typically offer doctors several ways to earn discounts. The size of the discount also can depend on whether a doctor is new to a practice, remains claims-free, or takes risk management courses.

In addition to the premium discount, some online risk management classes and webinars are eligible for CME credits.

“The credits can add up and they can be used for recertification or re-licensure,” said Susan Boisvert, senior patient safety risk manager at The Doctors Company.

Here are 5 ways you may qualify for discounts with your insurer:   

1. Make use of discounts available to new doctors

Doctors can earn hefty discounts on their premiums when they are no longer interns or residents and start practicing medicine. The Doctors Company usually gives a 50% discount on member premiums the first year they’re in practice and a 25% discount credit in their second year. The discounts end after that.  

Other insurance carriers offer similar discounts to doctors starting to practice medicine.  The deepest one is offered in the first year (at least 50%) and a smaller one (20%-25%) the second year, according to medical malpractice brokers.

“The new-to-practice discount is based solely on when the physician left their formal training to begin their practice for the first time; it is not based on claim-free history,” explained Zetter.

This is a very common discount used by different insurer carriers, said Price. “New physicians don’t have the same amount of risk of a lawsuit when they’re starting out. It’s unlikely they will have a claim and most liability actions have a 2-year time limit from the date of injury to be filed,” he said.

2. Take advantage of being claims free

If you’ve been claims-free for at least a few years, you may be eligible for a large discount.

“Doctors without claims are a better risk. Once a doctor has one claim, they’re likely to have a second, which the research shows,” said Zetter.

The most common credit The Doctors Company offers is 3 years of being claim free — this earns doctors up to 25%, he said. Zetter explained that the criteria and size of The Doctors Company credit may depend on the state where physicians practice.

“We allowed insurance carriers that we acquired to continue with their own claim-free discount program such as Florida’s First Professionals Insurance Company we acquired in 2011,” he said.

Doctors with other medical malpractice insurers may also be eligible for a credit up to 25%. In some instances, they may have to be claims-free for 5 or 10 years, say insurance experts.

It pays to shop around before purchasing insurance.

3. If you work part-time, make sure your premium reflects that

Physicians who see patients part-time can receive up to a 75% discount on their medical liability insurance premiums.

The discounts are based on the hours the physician works per week. The fewer hours worked, the larger the discount. This type of discount does not vary by specialty.

According to The Doctors Company, working 10 hours or less per week may entitle doctors to a 75% discount; working 11-20 hours per week may entitle them to a 50% discount, and working 21-30 hours per week may entitle them to a 25% discount. If you are in this situation, it pays to ask your insurer if there is a discount available to you.

4. Look into your professional medical society insurance company

“I would look at your state medical association [or] state specialty society and talk to your colleagues to learn what premiums they’re paying and about any discounts they’re getting,” advised Zetter.

Some state medical societies have formed their own liability companies and offer lower premiums to their members because “they’re organized and managed by doctors, which makes their premiums more competitive,” Price said.

Other state medical societies endorse specific insurance carriers and offer their members a 5% discount for enrolling with them.

5. Enroll in a risk management program

Most insurers offer online educational activities designed to improve patient safety and reduce the risk of a lawsuit. Physicians may be eligible for both premium discounts and CME credits.

Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company, owned by Berkshire Hathaway, operates in New York and offers physicians a premium discount of up to 5%, CME credit, and maintenance of certification credit for successfully completing its risk management program every other year.

ProAssurance members nationwide can earn 5% in premium discounts if they complete a 2-hour video series called “Back to Basics: Loss Prevention and Navigating Everyday Risks: Using Data to Drive Change.”

They can earn one credit for completing each webinar on topics such as “Medication Management: Minimizing Errors and Improving Safety” and “Opioid Prescribing: Keeping Patients Safe.”

MagMutual offers its insured physicians 1 CME credit for completing their specialty’s risk assessment and courses, which may be applied toward their premium discounts.

The Doctors Company offers its members a 5% premium discount if they complete 4 CME credits. One of its most popular courses is “How To Get Rid of a Difficult Patient.”

“Busy residents like the shorter case studies worth one-quarter credit that they can complete in 15 minutes,” said Boisvert.

“This is a good bargain from the physician’s standpoint and the fact that risk management education is offered online makes it a lot easier than going to a seminar in person,” said Price.

Christine Lehmann, MA, is a senior editor and writer for Medscape Business of Medicine based in the D.C. area. She has been published in WebMD News, Psychiatric News, and The Washington Post. Contact Christine at clehmann@medscape or via Twitter @writing_health

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