Doctors in at least four states are paying less for malpractice insurance than they were a year ago.

After keeping rates flat for five years, LAMMICO (whose name is derived from the Louisiana Medical Mutual Insurance Company) in Metairie, La., reduced its premiums by an average of 2.8% in Louisiana. The company cut its rates by 2.8% in Arkansas, too, where it had held rates steady since 2007, when LAMMICO started offering coverage there. Rates vary according to specialty and other criteria.

LAMMICO is the largest malpractice carrier in the state. It posted dividends for policyholders in both states twice last year, totaling $20.6 million.

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Meanwhile, Boston-based ProSelect Insurance Company cut its premiums by 11% in New Jersey and 6% in Pennsylvania, while leaving them unchanged in Maine.

Both ProSelect and LAMMICO credited a declining frequency of claims and smaller payouts, as well as aggressive risk-management programs, for the lowered rates. Frequency is a ratio of the number of filed claims to the number of physicians. LAMMICO spokesman David Bowser notes that in Louisiana, for example, the statistic dropped 11 points between 2003 and 2007, from 29.4% to about 18.5%.