Almost half of the US states face serious problems with professional liability insurance (PLI). Despite this, little is known about how this crisis is affecting access to care, particularly in rural areas.
We surveyed physicians practicing in rural Florida in 2003. The primary assessment was on changes in health care delivery by service type and specialty. Secondary outcomes included changes in PLI premiums and the effect of changes in premiums on service delivery and practice satisfaction.
Four hundred eleven (52.6%) of 781 physicians decreased or eliminated health care services during the past year. Overall, 73 (61.3%) of 119 decreased or eliminated vaginal deliveries; 60 (52.6%) of 114, cesarean sections; 186 (51.7%) of 360, hospital-based surgical procedures; 209 (46.4%) of 450, emergency department coverage; 103 (41.7%) of 247, endoscopic procedures; 187 (40.9%) of 457, office-based surgical procedures; and 105 (34.5%) of 304, mental health services. Elimination of services was highest for general surgeons (78.4%), surgical specialists (73.6%), and obstetricians/gynecologists (70.2%). Premiums for PLI rose a mean of 93.5%. Difficulty finding or paying for PLI was listed as an important factor by those reducing or eliminating services and by those planning to leave the community within the next 2 years.
The current crisis in medical PLI in Florida has a major impact on the availability and delivery of health care services to rural areas. Given the number of states that are experiencing similar insurance market upheavals, adverse effects on access to care are likely occurring nationwide.