New legislation recently introduced in the Florida House and Senate would take away a physician’s ability to self insure and raise the minimum malpractice insurance that a physician must carry from $250,000 to $500,000. This legislation would reverse the current law which allows a doctor to “Go Bare” so long as the doctor promises to pay up to $250,000 per judgment. The bill would dramatically increase the cost of practicing medicine in Florida.

This new bill follows recent legislative failures to lower insurance rates. For example, in November 2004, Amendment Three promised reduced insurance rates by lowering the amount of attorney’s fees payable to malpractice attorneys. Despite its passage however, it is doubtful the law will ever be enforced. Premiums rates continue to rise and doctors continue to Go Bare.

The more doctors Go Bare, the more the insurance industry loses money. Five years ago there were over twenty liability carriers in the state of Florida. Today, there are less than half that number. Insurance companies have tried everything to lure back customers, except the obvious solution – lower their rates.

But doctors who have been forced into Going Bare are not complaining. Many doctors who are Bare have discovered that they are sued far less frequently than their insured counterparts. This is especially true of frivolous claims aimed at the insurance money they carry. Furthermore, by properly protecting their assets and obtaining a legal defense plan, these practitioners have fully insulated themselves from the dangers accompanying a lawsuit.

Shockingly, two members of the Florida legislature, possibly persuaded by insurance company lobbyists, have now proposed a law mandating the purchase malpractice insurance. To be sure, the proposed law also creates a state funded malpractice carrier as an option. The state funded carrier would probably offer better rates than private carriers. However, by increasing the minimum coverage requirements from $250,000 to $500,000, the premiums still promise to be high.

Should the proposed bill go into effect, Florida residents may suffer the largest blow. Hundreds of doctors will not be able to afford the state mandated liability insurance and will be forced to halt the practice of medicine in Florida. As doctors diminish, so will the availability of quality healthcare.

The state has no business protecting the rights of insurance companies to make more money at the expense of doctors and the general public. Laws like the present one are clearly financially motivated and are patently unfair to the medical community. Offering a state funded insurance company as an option is a good idea because it might ultimately force the market down. But forcing doctors to pay outrageous rates for coverage is not the answer.