Ninety-four percent of medical liability insurance premiums remained the same or dropped in price in 2009, according to the annual Medical Liability Monitor survey, which polls insurance companies to track this information. Only 6% of insurance premiums increased this past year, compared with 16% in 2007 and 7% in 2008. In addition, competition improved: More than 10% of the insurance companies surveyed began writing policies in new states. Experts warn that this trend might not continue. A combination of a drop in lawsuits filed, and the imposition of caps on damages in some states has led to the stabilization of insurance premiums. But several states are facing legal challenges to caps on noneconomic damages, and in those states (such as Illinois and Georgia), insurance premiums did not drop as steeply as in other states.

Tort reform is key to keeping down high malpractice insurance premiums, experts say. In Ohio, for example, after malpractice reforms were enacted, including a $350,000 cap on noneconomic damages, malpractice claims dropped by 34%. Ohio physicians saw both cuts in their insurance premiums over the past few years and increased choice in insurance companies. There are now three times the numbers of insurance companies competing for physicians’ business compared with before tort reform.

States with the highest insurance premiums for internists and general surgeons include Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and New York. States with the lowest insurance premiums for these practitioners include Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Oregon, and Iowa. A surgeon in New York will pay an average of $106,600 per year for insurance compared with an average of 13,800 for a surgeon in Wisconsin.