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Medical malpractice rates in North Carolina have dropped as much as 48 percent for some specialties, although neurosurgeons and obstetricians have seen little relief, officials say.

The Medical Protective Co., which insures about 10 percent of North Carolina physicians, reduced rates two weeks ago for some specialists by shifting them to lower-risk categories. They include emergency room physicians, orthopedic surgeons and plastic surgeons.Medical Mutual Insurance Co. of North Carolina, owned by the doctors it insures, reduced its average rate by almost 6 percent in January.

Office visits and surgery won't necessarily be cheaper, because malpractice insurance is only a small part of doctors' costs.

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