Friday, November 26, 2004
One of the nation's largest medical-malpractice insurance companies told regulators that recently enacted caps on noneconomic damages in Texas would save it little money.
...Medical Protective's filing was made public by the Foundation for Taxpayer & Consumer Rights, a Santa Monica, Calif., consumer group that has opposed such caps. The foundation has also opposed rate increases by Medical Protective and others in the state of California.
"When the largest malpractice insurer in the nation tells a regulator that caps on damages don't work, every legislator, regulator and voter in the nation should listen," said the foundation's executive director, Douglas Heller.
The claims was part of a document they submitted to the Texas Department of Insurance to request a rate increase. Spokesmen for the company are now backpedalling, saying their remarkes were taken out of context, and that tort reform and caps are necessary to rein in premium rates. The damage has been done, however. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.
Which is exactly what Medical Protective and GE are trying to do. I have no knowledge of what goes on inside the Ge boardroom, but the company acts in every way like a company eager to get rid of its malpractice insurance branch. Being a nationwide company hasn't helped them in this era of litigation. They've been raising their rates across the board, dropping doctors after two claims, no matter how frivolous, and leaving markets all together. It's almost as if they're trying to plump up the bottom line as much as possible to make themselves attractive to a buyer. They may be the largest medical malpractice insurer, but they aren't the most committed.
The Texas State Department of Insurance agrees:
Medical Protective has been raising its medical liability insurance rates nationwide. The company filed for a 19 percent rate increase here in Texas to be effective June 1, 2004. I did not feel that this increase took into account, among other things, the full effect of the reforms enacted by Proposition 12, which was passed by Texas voters last year. While the increase Medical Protective was seeking is lower than what they are implementing in other states, I do not feel it is justified.
The Texas market is strong and getting stronger. Ten (10) new carriers have recently taken concrete steps to enter the Texas marketplace and many more have indicated an interest in doing business in Texas. Rates have stabilized and competition is returning. This action by Medical Protective in no way reflects on the viability of the medical liability market in Texas.
And in fact, other companies have cut their rates, and new ones are entering the market in Texas. GE stands alone when it comes to rate gouging.
GE Medical Protective took their case to court (apparently without irony) and persuaded a judge to let them raise rates:
The Texas Department of Insurance has tried since May to block G.E. Medical Protective Co.'s rate increase, which regulators have said is excessive.
The fight between regulators and the company, also called MedPro, has been a closely watched test for the effectiveness of 2003 legislation designed to lower soaring insurance costs for doctors by reducing the number of medical malpractice lawsuits.
An administrative judge issued a proposed decision, finding that there is enough competition in the medical malpractice market to allow MedPro to set its own rates.
Jim Hurley, a spokesman for the Insurance Department, said the department disagrees with the ruling and will be filing exceptions to the judge's findings. A final decision by the judge is expected in January.
That decision will go to the insurance commissioner, who can accept or reject it.
Bet he rejects it.
UPDATE: While visiting with family over the Thanksgiving weekend, the topic of medical malpractice premium costs and GE's insurance line came up. One of my relatives pointed out that GE was hit particularly hard on 9/11. As GE's CEO put it:
I had an airplane with my engines hit a building I insured, covered by a network I owned – and I still [expect to] increase earnings by 11 per cent.
Sometimes, it's better to have an insurance company that isn't so widely diversified.
posted by Sydney on 11/26/2004 01:30:00 PM 0 comments