Obstetricians and Family Practice physicians in Mississippi are increasingly finding themselves in the difficult position of having to quit their obstetrical practices due to the skyrocketing costs of malpractice insurance, which has risen 20-400 % over the past year in many cases. Alongside the rising cost of healthcare in general, Mississippi’s legal climate has also served as a co-factor in causing premiums to rise dramatically. Mississippi has a national reputation for multi-million verdicts and settlements and high-profile lawsuits involving the tobacco industry, HMO’s, and pharmaceutical companies.
The rural poor are especially hard-hit by the closing of obstetrical practices. As the insurance companies try to pass the rising cost of healthcare and liabilities onto the doctors, rural physicians are not just closing their practices, but many are moving elsewhere, leaving underserved areas even more shorthanded. On the other hand, increasing fees to cover the rising cost of insurance isn’t an option for most physicians intent on keeping their rural practices open, as most of their patients are on Medicaid.
Mississippi isn’t alone in dealing with this problem. Physicians in West Virginia and Florida are facing similar issues.