RALEIGH, N.C. — Having a baby is expensive, even for doctors. The insurance they must have to practice has gone through the roof, pushing many of them out of the baby business. The
North Carolina Medical Society
predicts half of family doctors will soon stop delivering babies.
Giving birth is a stressful time for a mother. It is a time when she turns to her doctor for help and guidance, but obstetricians may soon be hard to come by.
Dr. John Schmitt is leaving 2,000 patients partly because of the skyrocketing cost of medical liability insurance, which went up 150 percent from last year. Obstetrics is a high-risk specialty.
Insurance companies charge more because of the increasing number of lawsuits, even though the majority of them end in the doctor's favor. The more babies a doctor delivers, the more he/she pays in insurance, so more seasoned doctors are getting out.
"The people that will be able to do it are the youngest people in practice with the least experience which is fine as long as things are normal and all that, but when there's a real disaster or problem, you want someone with the most experience," Schmitt said.
Dr. Charles Hammond, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said women will have a tough time finding someone to deliver their babies.
"I predict if something isn't done to change that, we'll be in a crisis situation as are at least a dozen other states in the U.S. right now, and I predict it'll happen in the next 1 to 2 years," he said.
Neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons are also facing high insurance premiums. Doctors are lobbying lawmakers to put a cap on awards in malpractice lawsuits. One recent award was for $100 million.
A recent study showed a doctor who practices for 15 years can expect to be sued nearly three times.