Finally, someone is thinking outside the box about
medical malpractice insurance. It is the companies that are gouging doctors, not the number
of lawsuits filed.
This is quite welcome news to medical malpractice lawyers – that
regulating insurance rates is crucial to preventing medical malpractice
insurance companies from taking thousands of dollars from doctors and
allowing patients better access to health care. This observation comes
from the author of California’s insurance regulatory reform law.
There is a bit of history involved here, and that is referring to Proposition
103, enacted as insurance reform in 1988. That law mandates prior approval
for various requested hikes in insurance, meaning that insurance companies
must justify and get an approval from state regulators before any new
rates could be introduced.
What is interesting about this, is that in the first three years after
the reform was introduced, California medical malpractice premiums dropped
by 20 percent, then stabilized. This happened despite premiums across
the nation fluctuating wildly. The national average showed an increase
in medical malpractice premiums of 127 percent across the nation. California
doctors were only paying 24 percent between 1988 and 2009. Quite the difference.
What do these numbers mean for every state and every doctor in the U.S.?
They mean that California’s medical malpractice insurance industry
was slamming doctors with high rates because they could, so they could
make obscene profits for themselves, while blaming rising premiums on
injured patients. In other words, the only reason why California held
the line on reasonably priced medical malpractice insurance was because
of Proposition 103. Do other states need a similar Proposition? It would
seem so, or doctors in other states may not see any savings from malpractice
insurers without something like it.
Another interesting provision in Proposition 103 created a process where
interested groups, or the general public, could ask for intervenor status
to challenge excessive rate hikes. Thanks to that group, they were able
to stop a $66 million rate hike for doctors and other medical professionals.
Sounds just like what the doctor ordered. Stop the bleeding where it begins,
with insurance companies gouging doctors to make as much money as they can.
The number of serious medical malpractice cases across the country is not
high enough to justify the outrageous prices insurance companies charge
medical professionals for coverage. Having said that, by no means should
a doctor guilty of medical malpractice not be held accountable for their
negligence. What is going on in the insurance industry is a mindset being
stoked by the lust for more and more money to feed their bottom line.
Medical malpractice insurance is not about settling up with an injured
patient and making things right. It is not about admitting that a doctor
made an error and is willing to pay for it. It is about dismissing, denying
or diminishing a claim to avoid paying out too much money. In other words,
medical malpractice victims are at the mercy of the negligent doctor and
an insensitive insurance company, who is far more interested in not paying
on claims than in doing what is right.
If something like this were introduced in the state of Ohio, or any other
state for that matter, it would be a welcome relief for patients, victims,
doctors and medical malpractice attorneys. Perhaps this would get rid
of medical malpractice caps, which only benefit the insurance companies,
not the victims.