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What Physician Assistants need to know about tail coverage

January 9, 2012

As a Physician Assistant (PA), one of the most life-altering things that can happen to you is to be saddled with a claim when your medical professional liability coverage has lapsed.  This type of scenario usually occurs when a PA is between jobs. A claim can de-rail a promising career, and it can affect every aspect of a PA’s life.

What is Tail Coverage?

Tail coverage is optional extended reporting period coverage available after expiration or cancellation of a claims-made policy.  It protects a PA against claims brought against him/her for services provided during the policy period.

Tail Coverage is critical to have because a claim can be madefor services provided by a PA even after they have left a practice and forfeited their malpractice coverage.  It is important to understand that a PA can be named in a claim for simply being in the room, even if the supervising Physician is the principal service provider.   Should a claim arise during a coverage gap (between jobs, leave, etc.) a PA is completely vulnerable.

Why Wouldn’t My Employer Pay for Tail Coverage?

Tail Coverage is something every Physician Assistant needs to have when insured through claims-made employer provided coverage, however many find that when they go to negotiate terms of employment at a practice or hospital, this coverage is often not paid for by the employer.  So the question stands: Why won’t my employer pay for my tail coverage?  The answer here is fairly simple.  It’s expensive.

Tail coverage can cost upwards of three-times the premium on a malpractice policy, making it a very costly for employers to secure for PA’s that are leaving the practice. That said, it is absolutely necessary to have if you are insured by employer provided claims-made coverage and you change employers. What this means is you foot the bill.

What are my options?

If your employer has secured an occurrence based medical malpractice policy you are in the clear; however, these types of policies are very expensive, and a large majority of employers secure claims-made coverage.

You may attempt to negotiate tail coverage in your employment contract, however it could be difficult because as mentioned earlier, tail coverage is quite expensive.  If this is the case you absolutely must purchase tail coverage when you change employers.

The best option for avoiding having to purchase costly tail coverage is to purchase your own medical malpractice policy, which many employers will reimburse.  The benefits of having personal coverage are numerous, as it follows you from employer to employer eliminating coverage gaps and the need to purchase costly tail coverage.

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