Medical insurers testify

Southern Illinoisan
Thursday, February 24, 2005

The insurance industry came under fire Wednesday during a House committee meeting when a witness suggested companies are misleading consumers about medical malpractice rate increases.
"'The tragedy is that the doctor's insurance company is paying out less in claims but charging doctors more and they're not telling the doctors the truth about that," said Jay Angoff, former director for the Missouri Department of Insurance.
The House Judiciary Committee heard testimony from witnesses who illustrated their ideas on how to reform medical malpractice. Several reform proposals have been introduced in both chambers, some including insurance regulation.
Angoff, an insurance lawyer, claimed the state's largest malpractice insurer is misleading consumers about raising rates. He insinuated that ISMIE Mutual's revenue is going up while the number of claims is going down.
According to ISMIE's 2003 annual report, the company increased its base rate by 35.2 percent in May 2003 because of a 36 percent increase in liability cases and a 25 percent increase in payment per claim. But Angoff said ISMIE's data is misleading consumers because it estimates are based on future payouts.

Other witnesses focused on varying aspects of whom to blame and how to reform the state's malpractice dilemma.
Amber Hard, director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, says bad doctors are the main reason for the state's problem.
"Patient safety must come first," she said, adding disciplining doctors for medical errors is the first step to reforming the state with a reputation for high medical malpractice insurance.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D

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