Malpractice insurance coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic

April 14, 2020
Erik Leander

Erik Leander is the chieftechnology officer andchief information officer of Cunningham Group, a medicalmalpractice insurance agency.

Answers to the most common questions being asked by physicians.

The medical malpractice insurance industry, like every industry, is operating in uncharted waters as it responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Here are some of the most common questions and requests we’re receiving from our physician clients all over the country during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

(Because each state is setting their own guidelines, please make sure to contact your agent with any specific policy questions.)

Telemedicine, what do I need to know?

This is BY FAR our most common question. Most major liability insurance companies are changing their internal underwriting guidelines to allow practices to be more telemedicine-based until the COVID-19 pandemic ends. This is generally for COVID-19-related reasons, but what this entails has been loosely defined: 

  • Do you need to protect your patients from the virus, is one of your staff sick? 

  • Do your patients fall into a higher-risk pool and thus telemedicine is a safer medium? 

  • Are there mandated state orders? 

Physicians must document the relationship to the COVID-19 Pandemic as the telemedicine portion of their practice expands.

The utilization of telemedicine normally requires physicians to be licensed in the state where the patient is physically located. However, some states have waived the licensure requirement due to the pandemic. Physicians need to check with each state to verify that they comply with all state licensing regulations. Here is a current list of state licensing waivers and adjustments. If you are adding a new state to your practice for telemedicine, you should contact your agent or broker.

Can I reduce my malpractice policy from full-time to part-time status?

Adding this endorsement to your current coverage will reduce your overall premium costs. Most physicians choose this path because their practice has been reduced significantly due to the pandemic. Many are experiencing a significant drop in patient visits; certain procedures could be deemed elective and patients may choose to reschedule their appointments. 

Can I temporarily suspend my coverage?

There have been a wide range of responses from malpractice insurance companies pertaining to suspension during the COVID-19 Pandemic: from no cost during the suspension to having the premium reduced by a certain percentage. Adding a suspension endorsement to your current coverage states that you are not seeing any patients during this time, and no coverage is provided during the suspension period. There are also specific rules covering the minimum and maximum length of time for a suspension endorsement to be approved. These vary greatly among all malpractice insurance companies and you should contact your agent if you have any specific questions or concerns.

Can I expand my scope of practice?  

This is for doctors who are working outside their specialty to assist with the COVID-19 crisis. Some insurance companies are covering this if it’s related to the pandemic, while others are not. Please contact your agent if you plan to work outside your specialty to ensure you have malpractice coverage in place.  

I’m a retired physician who wants to help where I can. What do I need to do to have malpractice coverage in place?

If you are a retired physician with a Tail Endorsement, some companies have issued statements that Tails will not be jeopardized for physicians who temporarily provide patient care specifically related to the COVID-19 Pandemic. If you will be working during the pandemic, it’s recommended you contact your agent or broker to ensure you’re fully covered.

Will my malpractice insurance company delay when my payment is due? 

Most malpractice insurance companies are extending due dates and suspending policy cancellations due to non-payment. Your premium will be due eventually, but many companies are providing additional time to make payments in this difficult time. Please contact your agent or broker if you plan on missing any payments or need additional time to make yours. 

Malpractice insurance companies are working to accommodate physicians during the COVID-19 crisis, but you still need to ensure that you have the proper coverage in place before you make changes to your practice. This is extremely important because the responses from the dozens of companies we work with have been slightly different. We highly recommend you contact your agent to ensure you are practicing within the guidelines of your policy and that you have the proper coverage in place.

Erik Leander is the chief technology officer and chief information officer of Cunningham Group, a medical malpractice insurance agency.