Doctors, lawyers, insurers square off over insurance

Associated Press
Monday, October 21, 2002

Doctors and lawyers squared off Monday before a governor-appointed task force that will recommend ways to halt skyrocketing malpractice insurance rates that doctors say are causing some of their colleagues to flee the state.

The meeting of the Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance marked the first battle of what is expected to be a contentious fight pitting doctors and insurance companies against trial lawyers and consumer groups during next year's legislative session.

State government needs to take some action or high insurance premiums "could begin to affect access to care and the health care of our citizens," Florida Health Secretary John Agwunobi told the task force.

During daylong testimony involving almost 40 witnesses, each side blamed the other for the rising premiums.

. . .

During the 1990s, insurance companies kept rates artificially low as they tried to undercut rivals while profits soared from investments, said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based consumer advocacy group.

Insurance rates went up when the economy started performing poorly and interest rates weakened, said Doroshow, who advocates insurance reforms such as charging rates based on doctors' experience rather than their area of specialty and stiffer sanctions against bad doctors.

"We're sympathetic with doctors," Doroshow said. "The solution to this has nothing to do with restricting patients' rights."

For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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