It remains unclear exactly how COVID-19 will change the healthcare and the medical professional liability fields, but it is indisputable the pandemic will have a significant impact on both industries for years to come. While there are many unknown factors, some predictions can be made now about the crisis' lasting consequences based off emerging legislation and trends already being observed.
Medical professional liability claims filed in the wake of the pandemic will likely be divided into two key categories; COVID-19 related claims and second wave delayed healthcare claims.
Potential COVID-19 related claims will be inhibited by new regulations passed by the government. For instance the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed March 27th, 2020, provided some federal liability protections to healthcare workers and volunteer aids thanks to its Good Samaritan language (The CARES Act Work for All Americans). Additionally, The Facilitating Innovation to Fight COVID-19 Act is a new bill that has been submitted and-if passed-it will expand immunity from civil liability to healthcare providers for actions taken during the COVID-19 health crisis. This will prevent healthcare providers from being held liable for the following actions related to caring for COVID-19 patients, (1) using or modifying a medical device for an unapproved use (2) practicing without a license or outside of specialty (3) conducting the testing of, or providing treatment to, a patient outside of the premises of standard healthcare facilities (S.3630 - Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act). These policies should provide broad protection for care providers and provide coverage for care rendered while treating COVID-19 patients.
Second wave delayed healthcare claims are the more likely threat in the wake of COVID-19. Due to the influx of critical patients, social distancing guidelines, and the discontinuation of nonessential procedures many patients have had to delay care. These postponements could adversely affect future treatment for patients and providers may potentially face an increase in medical professional liability claims alleging a delay in diagnosis or treatment. (COVID-19 Key Considerations for MPL).
What does this mean for your malpractice policy premiums going forward? Given the broad protections afforded to healthcare workers by government legislation, claims related to the treatment of patients with COVID-19 seems less likely, outside of instances of gross negligence. But the uncertainties surrounding second wave delayed healthcare claims is going to push insurance carriers to price coverage more conservatively. The medical malpractice insurance industry was already seeing a spike in premiums prior to this crisis, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue. Learn more about A.M. Best's predictions for the medical professional liability insurance industry in the wake of COVID-19 here.