Wyoming physicians plan to seek at least $2 million from a new state low-interest loan program to help doctors cover any malpractice claims while switching insurance carriers or retiring.
An informal survey sent to physicians last month by the state Health Department sought to measure their interest in purchasing the so-called "tail coverage" the state is setting up.
So far, about 50 physicians and physician groups out of about 930 licensed physicians who were sent surveys have responded, Lynne Weidel, manager of the office of rural health for the state Department of Health, said Monday.
"Some know exactly what their tail coverage will cost, others do not," Weidel said.
During a special session this summer, the Wyoming Legislature established the Medical Malpractice Insurance Assistance Account after the largest malpractice insurer in the state decided to quit doing business in Wyoming.
Doctors forced to switch insurance companies must purchase tail coverage to insure themselves against lawsuits not covered by the new insurance carrier.
Tail coverage is expensive -- usually 150% of the physician's annual malpractice insurance costs, Weidel said.
The Legislature set aside $13.2 million to create the low-interest loan program to help keep physicians from leaving practice or moving to another state, she said.
The loan program was drafted because many legislators were uncomfortable with direct subsidies to doctors to defray the cost of malpractice insurance -- an expense that is rising so quickly that some providers are curtailing services or moving to other states.
Weidel said physicians have until Jan. 15, 2005, to formally apply for the loans.
Meantime, the state Health Department is working on setting up the program by then, Weidel said.