Medical Insurance and Utah Law
Salt Lake City, Tooele and Price, Utah
Arbitration has been a method of settling disputes for years and years, in a variety of industries. But more recently, the arbitration process has begun impacting malpractice insurance rates.
In Utah, arbitration agreements are increasing in popularity among physicians. More and more doctors are blaming medical malpractice lawyers for increases in malpractice insurance premiums-even though there is no medical malpractice crisis in Utah. After experiencing premium hikes of 30, 25 and 15 percent in previous years, arbitration has prompted a reduction in the cost of defending against claims.
The increase in premiums, however, is not justified by the frequency or the amount of medical malpractice settlements. Regardless, the trend towards forcing patients to give up their constitutional rights in healthcare cases is happening nationwide.
The greater the risk of malpractice lawsuits, the greater the interest of using arbitration in the medical field. Utah amended its arbitration law in 2004, stating physicians are free to use arbitration agreements, but that they may not deny care if a patient is unwilling to sign the agreement.
Utah also makes it mandatory for malpractice cases to be settled within one year. This helps shorten the amount of time it takes to get a judgment. Utah law also prohibits the use of arbitration agreements in emergency rooms and by anesthesiologists on the grounds that it’s unfair to present the patient with such an agreement prior to critical services. During a contractual signing, both sides must have an equal opportunity to accept or reject the agreement.
Also under state law, patients are allowed to revoke their arbitration agreement up to 10 days after signing. A signed arbitration agreement is automatically renewed each year, unless either party submits written revocation-terminating the agreement on the following anniversary date.
A growing trend
While some states place restrictions on the use of arbitration in the field of health care, many health insurance plans in some western states are encouraging physicians to use these agreements.