Malpractice insurer blasts Senate bill

The Denver Business Journal
http://www.bizjournals.com

Colorado’s COPIC Insurance Co. has fired back at proponents of Senate Bill 248.

The medical malpractice insurer, in a statement issued Wednesday, claims the bill would not be beneficial for consumers, specifically targets COPIC and would benefit lawyers who sue doctors.

The bill was introduced in the Colorado Legislature on April 5.

SB 248 — sponsored by Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald, D-Golden, and Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder — would require major medical malpractice insurers to hold public hearings when they want to raise rates more than 5 percent. Only insurers who collect more than 65 percent of their total premiums in Colorado would be affected.

Insurance companies currently are not required to give public notification when they raise rates.

Backers of the measure contend it would help keep consumer health care costs down by holding insurers accountable for rate increases, which can cause higher patient fees. Bill proponents back up their position with data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which shows Colorado malpractice insurance premiums have gone up nearly $62 million, or 63 percent, in the last five years.

“This bill levels the playing field, and ensures open communication for all parties involved,” Rex Wilmouth, director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group (COPIRG), said in a statement last week.

The Colorado Trial Lawyers Association also supports the bill.

COPIC, based in Englewood, says it’s the only insurer that would be affected by SB 248.

“SB 248 exclusively targets COPIC, the only medical liability insurance company based in Colorado and run by Colorado doctors for Colorado physicians and hospitals,” COPIC said in its statement. “The bill would not impact much larger, out-of-state companies that market medical liability insurance in Colorado.”

The company says doctors it insures are concerned about the bill because it could force COPIC to stop covering high-risk but critical specialties such as neurosurgery and obstetrics. Access to those services, in turn, could be cut, it says.

COPIC further characterizes SB 428 as a way for lawyers to force a hearing challenging COPIC rate increases.

The group says lawyers who work for contingency fees, especially, dislike it because COPIC aggressively defends its doctors against “groundless lawsuits instead of quickly settling,” the statement said. The insurer long has campaigned for limits on “excessive” lawsuits.

COPIC says its anti-lawsuit efforts have made Colorado “an oasis of calm in the national medical liability storm.” This is one of only eight states called “stable” by the American Medical Association (AMA), according to the insurer.
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