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If you are one of the ever-increasing number of practicing acupuncturists in California, you may have questions about the types of insurance coverage that are available to you and that could prove useful to you as you see and treat patients and as you strive to sustain and develop your practice.  

Basically insurance coverages that my be helpful to you will fall into two distinct categories: (1) professional liability insurance (also referred to as malpractice insurance or errors and omissions coverage) and (2) business owner's insurance. All practicing acupuncturists should have professional liability insurance, and those acupuncturists who operate their own businesses, including one-person operations, should consider business owner's insurance.

Professional Liability Insurance. Professional liability will protect you in the event that negligence or malpractice claims are made against you in the course of your treatment of patients. Most policies will cover the more common practices of the profession: treatment diagnosis, insertion and removal of needles, moxibustion and cupping. If your practice involves more exotic kinds of treatment (for example, cosmetic acupuncture or facial rejuvenation), you will want to carefully examine your policy to determine whether that form of treatment is covered. In some cases, insurers will offer coverage for these and similar specialty treatments for additional costs. In addition to the scope of your coverage, you will also want to consider the amount of coverage you need. Typical coverage limits are $1,000,000 per claim and $3,000,000 for multiple claims in a single policy year, but lower ($100,000/300,000) or higher ($2,000,000/4,000,000) limits may also be available. You should be comfortable with the policy terms which determine the circumstances under which the insurer may settle claims made against you -- your professional reputation will be more important to you than to your insurer. You should inquire whether your policy includes defense against such things as sexual misconduct allegations, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPPA) compliance, and audit examinations conducted by your health insurance network, and if so what the coverage amounts are. And, as with all insurance policies, you should inquire about deductibility provisions. If you are moving from one insurer to another, you should inquire about prior occurrences or tail coverage. Finally, you should find out what "special offers" may be available to you. For example, some insurers will offer lower premiums to recent graduates. In many cases, premium reductions are available to practitioners who include mandatory arbitration provisions in their patient agreements. 

Business Owner's Insurance. If you own and operate your own acupuncture business, including a business in which you are the sole employee, you will also want to consider business owner's insurance (BOL), which will cover losses or claims against you as a business owner and not specifically as an acupuncturist. BOL will include at a minimum general liability insurance and property insurance, and may also include other forms of coverage. General liability insurance will protect you from claims by guests or visitors to your business premises who are injured or suffer property loss. Property insurance will insure you against losses to your personal property in the event of natural disaster, fire or criminal acts. Your property may be insured at its current value or its replacement value. Depending upon your circumstances and needs, BOL may also include: workers' compensation insurance which is required by the state of California for most employees; cyber liability insurance to protect against (among other things) theft of patient health or payment data; commercial automobile insurance; umbrella liability coverage in the event that you feel you need additional coverage; and business interruption insurance to allow you to meet payroll, rent and other business expenses in the event that your practice is disrupted by, for example, fire damage. 

In some cases your professional liability insurer will be in a position to also offer some or all of the business owner's insurance that you want; and in some cases you will get a premium benefit from having both coverages with the same insurer. But professional liability insurers are generally specialty insurers and may not have the full range of BOL coverages that you wish to obtain or may not have all of the options you are looking for.

As an acupuncturist you have tremendous responsibilities. And quality patient care is always foremost in your mind. But you need to devote some thought and care to protecting yourself, your business and your assets from events, risks and liabilities that can be mitigated with the proper insurance coverage. I understand the nature of your work and business. Until recently, my wife was a practicing acupuncturist who took great pleasure in her profession. If you have questions about insurance coverage, please contact me. I am an independent insurance agent who can help you find the proper insurance fit.

Alex Pfeifer
Pfeifer Insurance Brokers
650 762-8087
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