Health care malpractice rates to fall slightly in Kansas

Kansas health care providers will see an average 2 percent cut next year in the premiums they pay into a state-operated malpractice insurance fund.

The Health Care Stabilization Fund was established in 1976 in the midst of a malpractice insurance crisis in Kansas that was driving many doctors and other health care providers out of the state. The fund provides excess coverage, over and above the claim limits on standard malpractice insurance policies.

Charles Wheelan, executive director of the fund, told a legislative oversight committee Monday that the fund has been successful in stabilizing the malpractice insurance market in Kansas and that it now has a reserve balance of $49.5 million.

Health care providers pay a surcharge into the fund, the amount of which varies depending on the claims history in their practice area.

The rate changes that will take effect Jan. 1 will mean a general practitioner who does not perform surgery will save $32 per year. Rates for physicians who do minor surgeries will go down 7 percent, or $152 per year. However, rates for neurosurgeons will go up 5 percent, or $826 per year.

During the last fiscal year, the fund settled 64 claims, paying out $21.7 million.

The fund also defended 16 cases that went to trial. Of those, 14 were decided in favor of the defendant, one in favor of the plaintiff, and there was one split verdict. The one verdict in favor of the plaintiff came from Johnson County, where jurors awarded $1.75 million against a doctor.