By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
I have been pleasantly surprised recently to discover that several professional liability insurance companies have raised their coverage amounts and added coverage in areas sorely needed by health professionals. I'm referring to coverage for incidents not necessarily related to malpractice or professional liability.
I do note that Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance has increased its basic policy limits from a cap of $3,000,000 aggregate per year to $5,000,000 aggregate per year for counselors on professional liability coverage.
However, we have always maintained that the most important coverage for any licensed health professional is professional licensure legal defense coverage. This is probably the most used type of coverage and the most beneficial for a health professional.
HPSO Insurance and Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, as well as several other insurers now provide up to $25,000 coverage. If an employer whether it’s a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility (ALF), home health agency (HHA), medical group or public health clinic or a patient complains about you to the state Department of Health (DOH) or state licensing authority, you could face investigation and hearings that would cost you tens of thousands of dollars to have properly defended by an experienced attorney. If you don't have the funds to pay for this, you could be forced to accept discipline on your license which could result in a number of unexpected additional adverse actions against you.
Although I would prefer to see this coverage increased to $50,000, and there are several companies that provide this much in coverage, $25,000 will go a long way toward defending you against meritless or unprovable complaints.
New HPSO Insurance and NSO Coverages.
Representation During a Deposition - A patient is injured at the facility where you work. You are not named in the lawsuit, but you receive a subpoena for testimony. Your coverage through HPSO Insurance will pay up to $10,000 per deposition with a $10,000 annual aggregate for you to be represented at the deposition by an attorney.
Information Privacy Coverage (added upon request) – People today are very conscious about their privacy. Most are aware of the protection they receive under the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) laws. This optional endorsement extends your coverage to pay for HIPAA fines and penalties arising from a HIPAA proceeding, subject to a $25,000 aggregate limit.
Sexual Misconduct - In the past, while your coverage through HPSO Insurance would pay to defend you against allegations of sexual misconduct related to your professional services, there was no coverage for a settlement. This new endorsement provides you with a $25,000 aggregate sublimit for covered sexual misconduct claims.
Reimbursement for Rendering First Aid - This benefit provides reimbursement up to $10,000 for expenses you incur while rendering first aid to a person other than yourself. For example, this could include supplies from your personal first aid kit that you used to help a victim of an automobile accident.
Accidental Injury to Others - If someone was hurt by something like a slip and fall at your residence or your workplace and required medical attention, they can receive reimbursement for their expenses up to $10,000 per incident with a $100,000 annual aggregate. It must be an accidental injury, not a medical incident.
Service to Animals (added for pharmacists, physical therapists (PTs), massage therapists and counselors) - In the course of providing professional services to an animal, if they are injured and the owner files suit, the new service to animals endorsement provides $25,000 aggregate coverage. (Added upon request for all others.)
Accidental Damage to Others’ Property - While you are providing care at a patient's home what if you accidentally break something? No worries. Your policy pays for unintentional damage you cause to someone else's property while at your personal residence or workplace. This coverage provides up to $10,000 per incident with a $10,000 aggregate.
Other Coverages Added to Professional Liability Insurance Policies.
In addition to the coverages I have discussed above, there have been some other coverages added to many professional liability insurance policies that could pay off for damages or injuries the individual health professional incurs, as well.
Workplace Violence Counseling - While your assault coverage pays for the medical expenses resulting from an attack, this new endorsement broadens your coverage to include $25,000 aggregate limits for the payment of any emotional counseling needed as a result of a covered incident.
Coverage If You are Assaulted - Violence in the workplace is a sad reality. Should you be the victim of a violent action at work or on your way to or from work, this coverage will pay up to $25,000 per incident with a $25,000 aggregate for medical expenses you incur or for damage to your personal belongings.
Reimbursement for Defendant Expenses - Regardless of its outcome, a malpractice suit will likely cost you money and could mean thousands of dollars out of your pocket. Your policy through HPSO Insurance will reimburse you up to $1,000 per day, up to $25,000 aggregate for lost wages, travel and other covered expenses.
Business Owner Coverage Extension (added upon request) – The ‘named insured’ on a policy for a healthcare firm is typically the business name. If the business owner volunteers or moonlights there is always the chance they could be named in a malpractice suit under their individual name. This new extension provides protection for the owner if sued under their personal name.
HPSO Insurance Also Provides Coverage For:
Students (Health Professional Students)
Interns (Health Professional Interns)
Integrated Health Practitioners
Physical Therapists (PTs)
Physician Assistants (PAs)
Radiology Practitioner Assistants
Assisted Living Facilities (ALFs)
Home Health Agencies (HHAs)
Physical Therapy Practices
Occupational Therapy Practices
Outpatient Therapy Clinics
There is no time like the present, when you have the funds and can afford it, to purchase professional liability insurance. It is surprisingly inexpensive. Every professional should carry it. If you don't buy it before you need it, when you do really need it, it will be too late.
Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.
Our firm regularly represents physicians, dentists, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, massage therapists, mental health counselors, registered nurses (RNs), assisted living facilities (ALFs), home health agencies (HHAs), nurse practitioners, lab technicians, occupational therapists, physical therapists (PTs), social workers, physician assistants, psychologists and other health professionals in many different legal matters.
Services we provide include representation before your professional board in DOH investigations, in administrative hearings, in civil litigation, in defense of malpractice claims, in professional licensing matters, in defense of allegations concerning HIPAA privacy violations and medical record breaches, in Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) actions, and in many other matters.
In cases in which the health care professional has professional liability insurance or general liability insurance which provides coverage for such matters, we will seek to obtain coverage by your insurance company and will attempt to have your legal fees and expenses covered by your insurance company. If allowed, we will agree to take an assignment of your insurance policy proceeds in order to be able to submit our bills directly to your insurance company.
We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.
To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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