The old adage holds true: a person who represents himself/herself in a legal battle has a fool for a client. The same applies to medical malpractice insurance. Unless you want to spend years learning insurance brokering, it is best to consult an expert malpractice broker. The brokers are paid the same commission, which is typically 10% (in some cases 15% to 20%). This is built into the price of the insurance, thus it costs you nothing directly. Also, if you go directly to the insurer, skipping the broker, the insurer will not reduce the premium by the broker commission since it is built into the price. Again, having a broker will not cost you anything.

The challenge is how to find an expert broker in medical malpractice insurance in the California market. You need to find someone who is ethical and will look out for your interests. I wish a prospect for insurance could sit in our office for a week and see how hard all of us work to do the right thing, because there are many competitors who do not.

o Respond to a mailer asking the company for the name and number of their Norcal or Medical Protective representative. Call the company marketing representatives at Norcal and Medical Protective makelaar  to confirm that the company is appointed with both insurers. This is a good indication that the broker does a lot of medical malpractice work and that they have been vetted by these insurers.

Note: I do not mention The Doctors Company (TDC); since they appoint very few agents and those they do appoint are often direct writers (can only place with TDC). So the fact that the agent does not have an appointment with the TDC does not indicate that he/she is not an expert in medical malpractice. Also, a non appointed broker can give you a TDC quote through an intermediary.

o Once you have spoken with Medical Protective and Norcal, ask the broker how many clients he/she has currently. You want someone with 50 or more clients, which indicates his/her expertise. Then ask for access to a list of all his/her insurers that he/she can go to on your behalf.

How do i know my broker is doing the right thing by me?

o If you are in the standard market (TDC, Norcal and Med Pro), you have the cheapest deals. These standard insurers are the lowest cost insurers and have the best terms, so in most cases there is no reason for the broker to shop for your insurance coverage since you have the best deal. If you are in the non standard insurance market, then your broker should shop for your insurance coverage every year, as well as try to help you re-apply into the standard market with the hope that it will accept you.

o Assuming you are in the expensive, non standard market, you want your broker to go to at least 5 to 8 insurers. You want a list of the responses and quotes if applicable. Also, if you want proof of inquiries, ask for evidence like emails or letters the broker received from the underwriter or intermediary.

o Check all quotes to ensure your specialty is listed and your retro date is included. Sometimes underhanded sales people will sell coverage with no retro date. We had a client who left us for a cheaper deal, which he received as a result of his new broker dropping his retro back to 2004. So any person who was harmed prior to the effective date of his cheaper policy, sues the doctor today, for a past event, the doctor will not be covered.

o Look at the fees that you are charged. Brokers are permitted to charge fees, but they must identify them as a broker fees. Most range from $350 to $500. There is a broker who we have encountered, who charges not only the usual fee, but also numerous other fees calling them processing fees, policy fees et al. Inquire about these fees and if the broker does not give you valid reasons for the charges, find a new broker. This broker received the normal 10% commission plus broker fees disguised as something else, running away with 30%-50% on a deal which is obscene and disgraceful to our profession.

o Watch out for brokers offering Risk Retention Groups (RRG’S). These are deals where you are part of a self insured deal. They will say they have reinsurance and other items of security. But in reality if they run into financial problems they can come back and ask for more money, more than the premium that you paid, and you have to pay as mush as they need. We had a client who joined RRG’s, before coming to us, who went bankrupt and had to pay over $250, 000, including legal fees, to pay what he owed the RRG. If you come across brokers who offer this option and do not tell you the truth about the downside of an RRG – RUN! Buy from a real insurance company where you pay your premiums and that is all you owe.

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