Rising malpractice rates, shrinking doctor pool

News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
Sunday, August 18, 2002

At the end of September, Gig Harbor obstetrician and gynecologist Patty Kulpa will stop delivering babies. The veteran doctor says there were many reasons for her decision, but prominent among them is her soaring medical malpractice premium - nearly $50,000 this year.

In the small Skagit County town of Mount Vernon, five out of nine obstetricians are making the same move rather than pay premiums that have jumped 50 percent over the past two years.

Puyallup family practice doctor Terry Utt says delivering babies is one of the most gratifying parts of his job. But with his insurance costs doubling in the past year, he wonders how much longer he can afford the extra coverage it requires.

Across Washington, as in much of the rest of the nation, physicians are reeling from insurance sticker shock.


Washington doctors are adding their voices to a nationwide chorus calling for limits on malpractice awards, which they point to as the main culprit behind the rate increases.

Citizen rights groups, attorneys and some government regulators say the situation is being overblown and that real blame lies with the sagging economy and questionable business practices of insurance companies.

"When the economy weakens ... insurance companies always respond the same way - by raising premiums," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the [New York],-based Center for Justice and Democracy, an offshoot of Ralph Nader's consumer rights network.

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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