GP insurance fears remain

DESPITE Federal Government assurances on medical indemnity issues, doctors in WA still fear insurance premiums will force them out of practice.

Last month the Government said it would initiate long-term arrangements to provide “affordable” retirement cover, and would take responsibility for successful claim outcomes that exceeded insurance cover caps.

However, this only applies to insurance contracts taken from January this year.

The high costs are one thing but the increasing trend towards litigation is making paying for medical indemnity “not worth it”, one Rockingham GP said.

Even in general practice, experienced doctors were wary of doing some things, she said.

“Life does go wrong and one cannot guarantee no complications but after 20 years you should be able to feel calm about doing things.”

Another GP said she and others were putting up fees to cover higher premiums.

But the required premiums were becoming so costly, and of less value against possible large and long-term claims, that some doctors were considering abandoning their practice.

Maintaining a good level of GPs was important to the state of the overall health system, the Rockingham GP said.

“GPs try to keep people healthy at an earlier stage and keep them out of the hospitals,” she said.

GP training and Medicare rebates were adding to the stress of some GPs, she said.

“Some of them just want to up and leave.”

However, the insurance issue, particularly uncertainty about how long one needs to keep paying insurance to cover past practices, was a major factor determining GP levels at the moment.

“It used to be that the day you stopped work, you never had to pay insurance again.

“But with tail cover, some may need to pay for another 25 years.

“It’s unclear, and some feel they will just be paying for other people’s insurance.”

From July 1, practising doctors can take out indemnity policies capped to $25 million.

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