Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance

The Truth About Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance

Ann Herro | June 21, 2018
Doctor and physician assistant with x-ray

Physician assistants (PAs) have a unique set of responsibilities and risks when it comes to patient care. Most PAs work under the supervision of and with direction from a physician or a group of physicians, but with a great deal of independence in treating patients. 

Physician assistants can perform physical exams, order and read labs, diagnose and treat certain conditions, and even assist in surgeries.

In this unique position, PAs are often named in malpractice lawsuits. If you’re a PA, don’t assume that the malpractice insurance offered by your employer is sufficient. What if you change jobs, or if the group’s coverage limits aren’t sufficient? 

Why Do I Need Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance? 

Physicians and everyone who works for them—including physician assistants—are human. Even the smartest and most qualified professionals can make a mistake. And any physician or PA can be sued for mistakes at any time, even if they are not at fault. 

Defending a malpractice suit is expensive, even if you win. Your defense costs could include:

  • Attorney and expert witness fees 
  • Payment of damages if you lose
  • Court costs and other expenses

Providers often win malpractice cases, but the costs to defend the case will likely be unrecoverable. 

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My Employer Offers PA Malpractice Insurance, Isn’t That Enough? 

While a PA’s employer may offer malpractice insurance for the entire practice, it is probably focused on protecting the group or the primary physician. The employer coverage likely has gaps that could leave you financially devastated if you are a PA who is sued for malpractice. 

  • If you change jobs, the previous employer’s malpractice insurance may not cover you for claims made after you leave, even if the incident happened while you were still an employee.
  • Your employer’s malpractice insurance coverage limits may be insufficient to cover everyone named in a malpractice suit. 
  • Employer coverage may not cover you for individual activities outside of the practice, e.g., if you moonlight or offer healthcare services outside of the practice as an independent contractor.

You might need to purchase your own physician assistant malpractice insurance to make sure you are protected in all circumstances and for the long-term. 

What Does Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance cover? 

Any mistake or oversight that negatively impacts a patient can result in a lawsuit. 

Every type of medical professional has different types of risks that need to be covered by their malpractice insurance. PAs need to work closely with an insurance agent to make sure their policy fits their needs. 

In general, physician assistant malpractice insurance covers you for liability claims arising from careless or intentionally harmful treatment. PA malpractice insurance typically excludes coverage for negligence due to illegal conduct, sexual improprieties, factual misrepresentations on the application for insurance, hospital or lab administration, or medical records alteration.

What Kind of Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance Should I Buy? 

You can purchase physician assistant malpractice insurance with dollar limits that are appropriate for you. Most policies specify:

  • An individual limit (the most that will be paid for any one claim), and 
  • An aggregate limit (the most that will be paid in any policy year for all claims). 

So if your policy has limits of $1,000,000/$3,000,000, this means it will pay a maximum of $1 million per claim and $3 million for all claims during a policy term. 

There are two types of medical malpractice insurance policies: claims-made policies and occurrence policies. Both types of policies are very complex. You need to know how each one works and pays claims, and then purchase the one that works best for your specialty and unique needs. 

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How Should I Choose My PA Malpractice Insurance Company?

Most healthcare professionals purchase and keep the same malpractice insurance for the life of their practice. This is especially important for PAs who may change jobs several times during their career, but are still susceptible to claims that are filed years after an incident occurs. 

Maintaining your own individual PA malpractice insurance, as opposed to employer provided coverage, is the best way to ensure you are protected for your entire career even if you change jobs or become a full-time independent contractor. 

When choosing a physician assistant malpractice policy, be sure to select a financially strong insurance company that will be around for the life of your practice. An insurance company’s financial rating is an effective predictor of its strength and longevity. 

Medical malpractice insurance is very important for all healthcare providers, and also very complicated with a lot of variations. Be sure to understand your policy and the implications of making changes to it over time. 

How Much Does Physician Assistant Malpractice Insurance Cost? 

Your employer may pay for some or all of the cost of your physician assistant malpractice insurance. Many PAs purchase their own coverage and are reimbursed by their employers. 

The cost of PA malpractice insurance varies significantly depending on: 

  • Your responsibilities
  • Your specialty 
  • Location of your practice

The policy limits you choose also determine how much your premiums will be. 

A PA who assists in surgeries or works in an obstetrics practice (high-risk specialties) will likely pay more for malpractice insurance than a PA who works with a general practitioner. 

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Physician assistants need specialized medical malpractice coverage for the specific and unique risks they face. It’s important to work with an independent agent who can find insurance companies who specialize in covering your liability risks, and who sell malpractice insurance specifically designed for your specialty.

An independent agent can help you find the right policy and can help you assess your options. 

Benefits of an Independent Agent

Our agents simplify the search process for finding the right medical malpractice insurance for physician assistants. They’ll walk you through the handpicked policy options and explain the details. 

Your agent can provide one-on-one consultation and tailored coverage options for your unique needs. 

TrustedChoice.com Article | Reviewed by Paul Martin

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