Medical Indemnity Insurance: What Is It and Who Needs It?

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Try as we might, we can’t always be in control of a situation because things uncalled for can easily happen at any time and any place. Even if you are the most careful person, doing everything in a calm and prudent manner, accidents can occur and knowing this uncertainty is always present, it’s important to take the right measures and take insurance seriously.

Any profession comes with its risks, though some more than others, and the outcome of accidents can be worse than expected; a nice example of a risky profession is any that has to do with health care, i.e. any medical practitioner, doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor, audiologist, dentist, dental hygienist, prosthetist and therapist, pharmacist, physiotherapist, osteopath, chiropractor, nurse, midwife or psychologist.

Regardless whether you’ve had years of experience in your field, mistakes can occur at any time, because we’re all only human after all, and the best way to protect yourself and the patient is to consider acquiring a suitable medical indemnity insurance.

Why the Necessity?

Unlike other countries, in Australia getting this kind of insurance is actually a requirement for registration with the AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency), an obligation by the Australian National Law with the Medical Indemnity Act 2003 which was put to force after the 2002 crisis when many doctors were faced with either stopping with the practice in high-risk areas or leaving the profession for good.

Regardless how safe the health system can be, getting this kind of coverage certainly brings the peace of mind when errors, negligence or omissions happen, more so having in mind medical professions pose a different type of risk – that of claims years after a treatment has been made, for example, given that some symptoms take time to be manifested.

Furthermore, it’s good to know even if your employer provides indemnity arrangements through an insurer, you could always opt to evaluate the options and find your own insurer.

Consider the Options

To be sure you’re getting the best of the best, it’s advisable to get the medical indemnity insurance from the providers approved by the Medical Board of Australia or an agency of insurance brokers that offers insurance through them which are: TEGO, MIGA (Medical Insurance Group Australia), MIPS (Medical Indemnity Protection Society), Avant and MDA National Limited.

Though all provide a $20 million liability cover and thus meet the AHPRA requirements, with TEGO you get unique benefits that the others don’t offer, starting from individual risk assessment meaning you’re assessed on your own merits, renewal of the policy at any time, double coverage of additional $20 million in case your limit is exhausted by the claim, privacy act breaches covers, and defence costs and fines coverage.

Since TEGO is backed by the Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company, you get unprecedented financial strength having in mind their market cap totals $355 billion. The extra benefit has to do with protecting your reputation by contributing to the legal costs in case you opt for continuing with a defence claim.

Medical indemnity insurance

Considering your savings, livelihood and reputation depend on the choice you make on the medical indemnity insurance and insurer, it’s a decision you have to make when and only when you’ve taken everything into account, i.e. your individual needs as well as the experience of the insurer in the medical insurance sector plus claims management.

When in doubt, it’s always better to inquire before you decide on a certain policy or insurer, and see whether the cover includes the so called tail cover, referring to all prior practice within Australia. In cases of medical services abroad, it’s advisable to check if you’ve got the suitable coverage from the insurer prior to leaving the country.

If by any chance you’d do work outside the workplace, and you never know when that might be needed since emergencies can happen at any time, it’s better to think about having the adequate personal medical indemnity coverage. This would be of help even with volunteer work for non-profit organisations.

Beware!

While in some countries, like the UK, this type of insurance is on a claims-incurred basis, in Australia it’s provided on a claims-made basis. It used to be the case with Australia too prior to the indemnity insurance crisis, and the change was made to bring stabilisation to the industry.

The difference between the two is that with the claims-incurred it doesn’t matter when the claim is made as the incident is covered any time throughout the cover period, whereas with the claims-made you’re supposed to notify the insurer once you’re aware a claim has been made.

Once the policy is cancelled, i.e. the period of insurance is over, any claims made are going to be rejected and this is why it’s important to be aware of these differences and act accordingly to get the needed protection.