One of the latest little-known changes Congress made in reaction to the Operation Desert Shield buildup affects malpractice insurance needs for participating doctors.

The new law, passed earlier this month, allows doctors to suspend their malpractice insurance if called to active duty and requires insurance carriers to extend the time of a doctor's policy and allow the doctor to return from military duty and pay the same premium to finish the term of the unexpired policy, said Lt. Col. Barrie Vernon, judge advocate general for the Utah Army National Guard.Vernon said the battle between doctors and Congress over this issue has raged for years. Even though a decision has been made, most doctors would rather have seen the government pay malpractice insurance bills in the event a suit comes while the doctor is on active duty. The law as written also leaves patients holding the bag for malpractice claims for the duration of their doctor's active-duty military service.