NJ malpractice premiums up 71% in just one year

With 2003 insurance quotes now in, New Jersey hospitals report an average annual medical malpractice insurance premium of nearly $1.9 million, a 71% increase over the average 2002 premium of $1.1 million. All told, New Jersey hospitals have seen their medical liability insurance premiums jump 378% in the last five years, according to a survey of the state’s hospitals by the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA).

The findings are based on initial responses to a survey of the state’s 117 hospitals, says NJHA president and CEO Gary Carter.

"For the average hospital, a $1.9 million annual bill can be staggering, especially considering all the other financial burdens it must bear," he says. "These growing costs are undermining hospitals’ ability to continue offering accessible and quality health care to their patients, not to mention depleting their medical staffs of respected physicians who are fleeing the state because of out-of-control premiums."

The five-year trend shows that the average hospital premium was $389,000 in 1999, with premiums breaking the $1 million mark last year, when the average annual hospital premium was slightly more than $1 million. Carter says the data show that hospitals, which are sometimes overlooked in proposed legislative fixes to this problem, are also feeling the financial pressures of sharply rising premiums.

"This information underscores the importance of a long-term solution to this problem, a remedy that will address these growing pressures on hospitals as well as physicians," Carter says. "Five years ago, we may not have recognized the start of a troubling trend. But with five years of data showing rapid increases, it’s clear that we need reforms that will reach to the very core of our tort system. A problem this persistent will not be cured with a one-time Band Aid."