Medical Professional Liability Insurance

Fall 2023 Issue

Peace of mind this holiday season

By Martin Hurst, Insurance Service Representative

desk covered in policies to compare

The agents here at WisMed Assure do not focus solely on revenue, our agents go that extra mile to address individual and specific concerns and provide coverage within each customer’s budgetary needs. By putting clients’ needs first, our agents demonstrate their commitment to providing excellent service and building trust with physicians.

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Helping clients with strategies, not just quotes

photo of calculator and stethoscope on top of graphs

By Chris Noffke, GBDS, CSFS, Vice President of Employee Benefits

Managing the costs of employee benefits while still providing robust resources for your employees can be a challenge. If your insurance agent just gives you a few quotes to compare, you might not be getting the best plans for your team.

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Consolidation leads to $600,000 student loan forgiveness – a case study

'Case Study' written on chalkboard

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

Good financial planners do much more than help with investments. They look at the entire financial picture, which includes debts too. Today’s case study shows how a unique rule, available until December 31, is facilitating more than $600,000 in student loan forgiveness.

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Nightmare before Christmas success story: cyber hacker stopped

By Shawna Bertalot, CIC, ACI, WisMed Assure President

Message from IT Manager: “Unusual activity has been detected on your exchange and our files cannot be backed up.”

This is not how any clinic administrator or managing partner wants to start their Monday morning, but exactly what happened to a long-time WisMed Assure client last December. This highly experienced, professional administrator of a 15-physician independent clinic with over 50,000 patient records was facing a situation she had never experienced before.

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Finding insurance and financial advisors I trust

By Tim Bartholow, MD

I have several connections to our Wisconsin Medical Society, and I’d like to share some good and bad  experiences with on the street financial advising and insurance advising, and how  WisMed Financial and WisMed Assure cut through market confusion.

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Should I convert my term life insurance policy?

photo of a young family looking out the window at fresh snow

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

As we celebrate the holiday season, we’re especially thankful for our loved ones. It’s the most popular time of year to reflect on our life insurance needs to determine whether we have the right coverage and enough coverage to protect our loved ones. The most common form of life insurance protection is term life, and a planning tool that often gets overlooked is the potential to convert your term life insurance coverage to some form of permanent life insurance, without any medical underwriting requirement.

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Protecting your most important asset can be a daunting task

Calendar full of appointments

By Lisa Koerner, Insurance Advisor

What is your most important asset? It’s your ability to earn an income. When choosing disability programs to protect your income, there are a number of different companies and benefits. It’s often a task that takes time and research, along with several discussions with an insurance agent.

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Making Part D of Medicare brighter

photo of an elderly man looking at medications with his physician

By Mary Krueger, Medicare Specialist

As many of you on Medicare know, October 15 to December 7 is the Annual Election Period for Medicare Part D and Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage). This often coincides with a flurry of research needed and concerns expressed by client recipients and this year was no exception.

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Summer 2023 Issue

When and why to schedule a life and disability insurance policy review with your agent

Pins on a calendar

By Lisa Koerner, Insurance Advisor

Many people think that once they have a life insurance or disability policy in place, they can file it away and forget about it. However, as your life changes, your needs often change as well. The policies that you took out when you were young, single and starting your career may not still cover your needs after you get married, buy a house, have children and start your dream job. As your life changes, it’s a good idea to review your policies.

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The power of planning: a physician’s journey to financial wellness

Stone walkway in grass

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

With uncertainties and change a constant, financial planning stands as a beacon of security and peace of mind. Today, we bring you a remarkable story that sheds light on how a dedicated physician and her family reaped the rewards of a well-structured financial plan, proving that even the busiest of physicians can find stability and fulfillment through proper financial planning.

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Innovation and improvements

Employee benefits manual with stethoscope on it

By Chris Noffke, GBDS, CSFS, Vice President of Employee Benefits

June marked my eighteenth year in the insurance industry; my entire career has been focused on employee benefits and helping clients save money and improve employee confidence in benefits. When I was asked to join the WisMed Assure team, I was given the chance to be innovative and truly build something the way I felt it should be and that’s exactly what my team and I are doing!

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Workers Compensation rate decreases

By Brian Fowler, WisMed Assure Account Director

Starting October 1, 2023, for the eighth consecutive year, Workers’ Compensation rates in Wisconsin will drop. Work Comp rates in Wisconsin are set by the state and are the same for every insurance carrier. Overall, we’re seeing a decrease of 8.4% across all employee classifications. Physician rates remain low and competitive, with no change to the rates this year. Rates have decreased for physicians within hospital systems and hospital employees other than professional employees.

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You bet your life

Cropped shot of young woman hugging her grandmother & helping her with her finances on a laptop

By Mary Krueger, Medicare Specialist

Most of us don’t spend our time concerned about our life insurance because it’s “set up” already through our employer, parents, bank or other sources. Have you really investigated how life insurance works? Is term insurance the best purchase or should you look at long term cost averaging?

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Log in to the new IPFCF portal to ensure compliance

By The WisMed Assure Service Team

The Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (IPFCF) has implemented a new policy and administration system. The new system allows participants to review correspondence from IPFCF and pay their bill online.

Currently all carriers have access to file certificates of insurance on behalf of their insureds. Participants will be onboarded in phases and should check the IPFCF website and watch for an email regarding the timeline for getting access to the new system.

The new provider portal can be accessed at ipfcfsecure.oci.wi.govThe IPFCF encourages physicians to log in and provide their personal email address. Click here for IPFCF provider portal instructions. For assistance logging into the new system or other questions, please contact the IPFCF at 608.360.8001 or via email at

Spring 2023 Issue

Why purchase individual disability protection during residency

physician looking at forms

By Tom Strangstalien, Insurance Advisor

As a resident or fellow, your biggest asset is quickly becoming your ability to earn an income. Until you become independently wealthy and can sustain a loss of earning power without consequence, it is imperative that you have disability protection. But why do this as a resident or fellow, before the dramatic income increase of becoming an attending physician?

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Group disability insurance can coordinate with individual policies 

By Chris Noffke, GBDS, CSFS, Vice President of Employee Benefits

Planning for the unexpected is the only way to protect yourself, your family, your business and your finances. Unfortunately, the death of a loved one or becoming disabled are often unexpected. If you no longer had an income, how would you and your family fare?

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What’s in a financial plan?

piggy bank on pile of money

By Mark Ziety, CFP®, AIF®, Senior Advisor, WisMed Financial

A financial plan is like a roadmap that helps you navigate through the twists and turns of life, whether you’re saving up for a new car or preparing for retirement. Think of it as your secret weapon to achieving your financial goals and living your best life.

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WisMed Assure can assist you with your Medicare decisions

Medicare keywords chart

By Mary Krueger, Medicare Specialist

Many Medicare eligible participants are familiar with Medicare, but the process is confusing to them so we’re here to assist you with those issues. Here are the answers to some common questions.

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Log in to the new IPFCF portal to ensure compliance

By The WisMed Assure Service Team

The Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (IPFCF) has implemented a new policy and administration system. The new system allows participants to review correspondence from IPFCF and pay their bill online.

Read more…

Don’t forget to call your mom, and your insurance agent

By WisMed Assure Service Team

With the intention of easing administrative burden for WisMed Assure client physicians, several of our Medical Professional Liability (MPL) carriers have significantly reduced or suspended asking for renewal applications over the past few years. While this does save time, renewal applications were an opportunity to touch base, review and discuss any changes to your practice that could impact your premium or coverage.

Please contact WisMed Assure if any of the following changes have occurred or are anticipated in your practice:

  • Have any health care professionals changed practice procedures, such as added or reduced surgical procedures?
  • Have you contracted with any independent health care professionals to provide services?
  • Are any physicians changing their practice hours? How many hours per week are they working now? 
  • Have you added or changed your use of telemedicine? 
  • If you are a Wisconsin Medical Society Member with Medical Professional Liability coverage through ProAssurance, you can earn premium credit on your renewal by completing their online risk management coursework. If you are not a member and would like to become one, please let us know.

Contact your agent or 608.442.3810 with any questions or changes to your practice.

WisMed Assure is the Wisconsin Medical Society’s insurance agency – profits earned support the mission of the Medical Society.

WisMed Increases Your MPL Choices

More options available even while insurers brace for uncertainty

By Shawna Bertalot, CIC, ACI, President WisMed Assure

A recently published report by A.M. Best says medical professional liability (MPL) insurance providers continue to experience decreased profitability. The rating firm is maintaining its negative rating for the segment and reports a growing amount of uncertainty due to potential increases in claims coupled with premium refunds, both stemming from the COVID crisis.

Even before COVID-19 swept through the country, the market was hardening – which means premiums were on the rise and terms and conditions were become more stringent. (See September 2019 Antidote Article “History Repeats Itself”)

While insurance companies continue to assess what their products cover and the cost of coverage, governments are introducing new laws that can directly and indirectly impact risk and insurance. It is a constantly evolving situation which we are closely monitoring.

To better serve the medical profession, our team has sought out alternative carriers and products to ensure you have the greatest amount of choice possible. Some of the new options we provide are directly related to the changes care givers have had to make due to the coronavirus.  (E.g.: Retired physicians returning to work have new options. Physicians who have increased their telemedicine activity have new options.)

Exploring Options:  What to Look For

When choosing an MPL insurance policy, or when replacing or updating your existing policy, it is easy to put too much focus on premium costs. That is certainly understandable, but it is not the only criteria you should be basing your decision on.  The most important thing to focus on is choosing the broadest coverage with a financially strong insurance carrier dedicated to the MPL market and excellent track record in claims handling.

Your Best Bet

To get what you need, and feel confident about the decisions you make, your best bet is to work with an experienced insurance advisor. The WisMed Assure advisory team has many decades of experience and a commitment to be your financial partner for life. We know your world because we only serve physicians and medical professionals. Plus, we are in it for the long haul as our profits contribute to The Wisconsin Medical Society’s ability to fulfill its mission: To improve the health of the people of Wisconsin by supporting and strengthening physicians’ ability to practice high-quality patient care in a changing environment.

If you have questions, want to learn more, or concerns to address, contact WisMed Assure today.


Shawna Bertalot is the president of the WisMed Assure agency. With her strong leadership skills and knowledge of the industry, our skilled team of agents are motivated and well prepared to find solutions for our clients.

Play Defense and Offense to Win the Medical Liability Game: A game plan for success in a hard insurance market

Part 3 of 3

By Shawna Bertalot, CIC, ACI, President WisMed Assure

“Physicians in Wisconsin will soon be paying more for medical professional liability (MPL) insurance thanks to a cyclical “hardening” of the market.”

(Excerpt from Part 1)

Three of every four primary care physicians will be sued by a patient during the course of their career. The numbers are even worse for specialties.

Which is why physicians as a whole are not willing to take the chance they will be among the lucky few who never get sued. To guard against the financial impact of a law suit, they purchase Medical Professional Liability (MPL) insurance. But, as Wisconsin physicians begin to experience rising MPL premiums along with greater underwriting scrutiny, the question becomes, “How can I get the coverage I need and avoid paying too much?”

The answer is to play defense and offense at the same time; defense by reducing the chances of being sued and offense by managing your insurance purchase.

It’s simple: don’t get sued

Well, if only it was that simple. In reality, a physician can do everything perfectly for a patient and still be sued because of a poor outcome.

Legally speaking, to be successful in court, a patient’s legal team has to prove three things:

  1. The physician committed a breach of duty by not providing medical care another healthcare professional would have provided
  2. The patient suffered emotional or physical injury
  3. The physician caused the damage to the patient

But, even when one or more of these three are not provable in court, no physician wants to end up in court in the first place… nor does their MPL insurer want to pay the legal bills.

How’s your Patient CRED?

Playing defense could be as conceptually simple as applying the “CRED” concept to your medical practice:

C – communication

R – relationship

E – education

D – documentation


A breakdown in patient-provider communication is a leading contributor to malpractice lawsuits. While it is absolutely essential to obtain adequate informed consent, doing so as part of an open, two-way conversation with the patient and their family when appropriate goes a long way to helping you avoid your day in court.

By taking the time answer questions, address concerns and openly discuss potential complications, you can avoid false assumptions and miscommunication while building patient confidence.

Patients and families are much less likely to sue a physician when they feel they have a good relationship. Even if you deliver the best possible care, without a good relationship, its perceived value and effectiveness can be significantly diminished in the eyes of your patient.

That’s why approaching each patient with compassion and empathizing with their concerns and condition throughout the cycle of care, is one of your best defensive strategies. Most of the time all it takes is for you to stop for a few seconds and truly engage with patients. Making eye contact, actively listening, just being there for a moment instead of worrying about where you have to be next, can make all the difference.

When a patient or a member of their family doesn’t understand the diagnosis, treatment or regulations, it is far too easy for them to feel you’ve done something wrong or inadequate.

If you don’t educate them, they instead rely on assumptions, what they read on the Internet, and what their cousin in Oconomowoc heard on the Doctor Oz Show.

To protect yourself, to play strong defense, take time to educate your patients and their family so they understand why you are recommending all tests and treatments ahead. Plus, they need to know what to expect including risks and possible side effects, recovery times, and results.

Clearly explaining why and what helps you avoid having to justify your actions and decisions by making the patient and their family part of the decision-making process.

Malpractice law suits occur when a patient thinks they’ve been harmed and are supported by others in making a case against a physician. Defense then is conceptually simple; you must accurately document the patient’s condition and why your diagnosis and treatment decisions were made.

But, in practice, it’s a lot more complicated. One complicating factor you cannot afford to overlook are the decision-making (or at least decision-influencing) conversations you have with patients and their families. When you use the other three elements of Patient CRED, these conversations gain importance and the need to document them is essential.

Going on the offensive

Inevitably, you will pay more for MPL insurance. But, to avoid an even worse-case scenario, where you can no longer find adequate coverage at all, there are several things you can do.

As the market hardens, underwriters will begin to clamp down on exceptions. This means that if your risk management practices and policies are irregular, you will pay a lot more and your options could be severally limited.

Unfortunately, to protect their profits, some insurers may reduce claims and risk management personnel and services. And some may sell directly and not through licensed insurance agents who can help you play offense. Which makes it even more important for physicians to make sure they have their act together when it comes to risk prevention.

Here is a risk management checklist you can use to improve your offense and be seen as a preferred risk to an insurance company.-

  • I understand and have taken advantage of the premium discounts and credits my insurance company offers.  Yes    No    Not Sure
  • I regularly participate in risk-reduction CME courses and seminars and receive discounts from my insurance company for doing so.  Yes    No    Not Sure
  • I utilize electronic medical records in my practice and receive discounts from my insurance company for doing so.  Yes   No   Not Sure
  • My organization pursues ongoing risk-management efforts such as claims management, quality initiatives, and risk assessments. Yes    No     Not Sure
  • My organization has an effective peer-review process.  Yes     No     Not Sure
  • My organization has practical guidelines for medical record documentation and consent forms.  Yes   No    Not Sure
  • I (we) have chosen the location for our organization by balancing market/patient accessibility and location-specific insurance costs.   Yes    No    Not Sure
  • When completing annual insurance renewal forms, I am careful to answer all questions as accurately as possible and include any and all substantive changes to my practice (e.g.: changes to hospital staff privileges, joining a managed-care network, gaining specialty board certification).   Yes   No   Not Sure
  • I understand the difference between claims-made and occurrence coverage and have chosen the coverage most appropriate for my situation:   Yes   No   Not Sure

It takes two to Tango

Playing offense goes beyond implementing risk management strategies. It also means playing tough with your insurance company. Given that the likelihood of a law suit occurring is so high, you need to be aware of your insurance company’s track record when it comes to managing claims.

Here are some important questions to ask:

  • How many law suits do they defend annually?
  • What is the percentage of cost they spend on defense vs. settlement?
  • How does their success rate in court compare to the national average?

Nationally, only about five percent of cases go to trial. And, of those, about 80 percent are decided in favor of the physician.

What should you do now?

For now, assuming your house is in order, you will want to look for stability and security by renewing your coverage with a financially strong insurer; a long-term player committed to the MPL insurance market place. This is where an experienced broker can play a key role in helping you understand the quality of the insurers willing to do business with you.

As the market continues to harden, it is essential to seek the help and advice of an experienced, committed advisor who can help you improve your underwriting profile if need be and navigate your options.

If you would like to discuss this article or your insurance needs and concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Shawna Bertalot, CIC, ACI, President WisMed Assure

Keeping Wisconsin Safe: Why It’s the Best Place to Practice Medicine

Part 2 of 3

There’s a reason Wisconsin is one of the safest places to practice medicine; it’s long been a haven for affordable medical professional liability (MPL) insurance. Which, among many other reasons, also makes it a great state to be a patient in.

But now, as the rest of the country feels the impact of increased MPL premiums, it may only be a matter of time before Wisconsin physicians see similar increases.

The economics behind this growing threat are relatively simple- insurance companies make money by collecting premiums, investing those premiums, and then paying out claims that are less than the income they make on their investments. On a national level, adverse litigation trends, an increased frequency of severe claims, and years of poor investment returns are driving down insurance company profits. As a result, MPL insurers are increasing premiums for the first time since 2001. 

Several states have already seen significant premium hikes and higher deductibles, along with reduced coverage options and fewer (if any) risk management services. It gets worse; some insurers are exiting the market all together.

It’s a classic hard market scenario: if they aren’t already, physicians and employers of physicians will be paying more for less. 

However, because of a number of factors, Wisconsin physicians have been shielded from this trend. 

Wisconsin is different… in a good way

Thanks to the efforts of the Wisconsin Medical Society, the AMA, and the medical-legal community in general, Wisconsin has always been among the top states when it comes to affordable MPL insurance. 

One of the most significant factors was in 1975 with the creation of the Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund. Physicians and other health care providers pay into the fund, which covers malpractice awards greater than $1 million. Physicians must purchase their own MPL insurance to cover claims less than $1 million. Bottom line: A physician’s personal assets are never at risk in Wisconsin thanks to this fund.

In addition to being instrumental in the creation of the fund, the Wisconsin Medical Society has consistently and effectively lobbied the state legislature resulting in the capping of non-economic damages and other legislation beneficial to physicians.

Wisconsin currently has capped non-economic damage claims at $750,000. The state also guarantees full recovery of economic damages awarded by a jury. This includes awards for past and future medical expenses as well as lost wages. 

When a 2012 malpractice suit resulted in a ruling the cap was unconstitutional, the Wisconsin Medical Society, along with the AMA’s Litigation Center, stepped in. They jointly argued against the ruling and asked the state Supreme Court to review the case. In 2018, the state Supreme Court rejected the lower court’s ruling and confirmed the cap’s constitutionality.

What the statistics tell us 

Consider these statistics for the period of 2004 to 2018 from the National Practitioner Data Bank managed by the Department of Health & Human Services:

  • In 2004, an approximate total of $4.6 billion in claims was paid. This sank to a low of just over $3.5 billion in 2012 and has risen to just over $4 billion as of 2018.
  • In the same time period (2004 – 2018) the number of claims has declined from approximately 17,000 to 11,584.
  • Conversely, the average paid claim has risen from around $260,000 to $348,000

Considering that the last time we saw a hard market was in 2001, these statistics are likely contributing to the national trend away from the historically lengthy soft market.

When it comes to the per-capita medical malpractice costs for all practitioners (from 2012 – 2016), Wisconsin was the lowest with an average of $3. This compared to New York’s number-one ranking of $36.

But, here’s something to watch in light of the national trends and the hardening of the MPL insurance market. Even though the number of claims paid in Wisconsin has dropped (as of 2016, the state ranked #50 out of 51 in the claims frequency category), we’ve seen a spike in paid claims from 2016 to 2017. Total paid claims for all healthcare providers went from 17 to 39 with the total payout jumping from $4.83 million to $14.28 million.

Who you gonna call?

While there are no hard market busting solutions out there, Wisconsin is most likely to remain one of the least expensive insurance havens in the country. Clyde “Bud” Chumbley, MD, CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society, agrees saying, “The Society is vigilant and will continue to play a significant role in ensuring our physicians are protected from unreasonable and unnecessary insurance premium increases.”

While the Wisconsin Medical Society and others are acting on your behalf, there are some fundamental ways you can protect your ability to acquire and maintain the right amount of professional liability coverage. We will dig a little deeper into what you can do to better manage your risk and the help that you can expect from a dedicated and experienced insurance brokers in the third part of this article.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding what the future of MPL holds for you, contact your trusted insurance and risk advisor.

Shawna Bertalot, CIC, ACI, President WisMed Assure


Medical Liability Insurance Premiums on the Rise: Part 1 of 3 Available in September

For the first time since 2001, the insurance market is hardening. This means Wisconsin physicians will be paying more for their medical professional liability (MPL) policies. It also means you will face stricter conditions, less favorable terms, and have fewer options and insurance companies to choose from.

At WisMed Assure, we know this is a serious matter for our clients. Our president, Shawna Bertalot, has written a three-part series examining what to expect as the market changes and MPL premiums increase. Part one of the series will be released in September with the debut of our bi-monthly newsletter. Be sure to subscribe to stay up-to-date on the financial and insurance matters of utmost importance to you and all of the Wisconsin health care community.

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