Gap costs to rise as more patients sue

The increased cost of medical indemnity insurance – which covers doctors in the case of legal action taken out against them by a patient – and the growing possibility of litigation, is leading to unnecessary tests and eventually higher fees for consumers. Doctors fearing potential court cases are carrying out more tests on their patients in order to protect themselves leading to fewer patients and increased fees for those they do treat. Last week's move by United Medical Protection, who insures the majority of the country's medical professionals, to demand members pay another full year's fees will drive up medical gaps for consumers as doctors pass on the added expense in their consultation fees. Some obstetricians have estimated a rise of up to $2,500 in gap costs prompting the Australian Medical Association to call for Federal and State governments to change the way medical negligence is managed. However, a spokesperson for Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge said that the government did not underwrite doctors.

‘Legal threat ‘adds to cost of Medicare', The Sydney Morning Herald, 30/11/00, p 10.