N.Y. Extends Med Mal Rate Freeze

side note: On Aug. 11, New York Gov. David Patterson signed a bill that effectively froze medical malpractice insurance rates for another year. Gov. Patterson signed a similar bill in 2008. This second rate freeze only further muddles the state’s already complicated medical liability climate. New York is considered one of the most “messed-up” states in regards to liability insurance for doctors.

By PHIL GUSMAN
Property-Casualty.com

New York Governor David Paterson has signed legislation extending the state’s freeze on medical malpractice insurance rates for another year.

Gov. Paterson signed the bill yesterday, spokesman Morgan Hook said.

Acting New York State Insurance Superintendent Kermitt Brooks said last month that setting new medical malpractice rates had been delayed because of the Senate leadership dispute that emerged between Democrats and Republicans.

A memo with the extension measure indicates that those involved in discussing solutions to the state’s medical malpractice problems need more time.

It states, “This bill would stabilize premiums for physicians and prevent a surcharge on premiums until June 30, 2010, while providing the executive, the legislature and stakeholders with additional time to develop long-term solutions to this complex problem. Doing so would also avoid a significant financial burden on physicians in the short-term.”

Medical malpractice writers in the state have frequently cited the state’s challenging legal environment coupled with rates that have been kept artificially low by regulators as a major problem. Medical professionals contend that medical malpractice insurance is too expensive, even with rates at their current suppressed levels.

Edward Amsler, vice president of Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company (MLMIC), the state’s largest private medical malpractice insurer, said the rate freeze “doesn’t solve anything,” and he compared it to putting a lid on top of a pot of boiling water.

Gov. Paterson signed the initial rate freeze in August of 2008. A statement at the time said, “The bill will hold rates stable as the legislature and Governor Paterson continue to work toward reforms that would provide significant and long-term premium relief for physicians, enhance patient safety and stabilize the medical malpractice insurance market.”

It said further, “The state is hopeful that these reforms can be finalized during the next regular legislative session.”

However, in April 2009 experts in the medical malpractice field told National Underwriter that since the rate freeze, they have heard very little regarding possible long-term solutions.

The last rate increase came on July 2, 2007, when the New York State Insurance Department announced it was approving a 14 percent increase. In the same announcement, the department said then-Governor Eliot Spitzer had formed a new task force, headed by then-Superintendent Eric Dinallo, to “confront the fundamental drivers of high medical malpractice costs.”

The task force was to report back to the governor by the end of 2007, but it stopped meeting in 2008 and never issued a report.

Mr. Amsler said the departure of Mr. Spitzer, who resigned after revelations concerning his involvement with a call girl, played a role in derailing the task force’s efforts.

NU Online News Service, Aug. 12, 3:22 p.m. EDT

New York Governor David Paterson has signed legislation extending the state’s freeze on medical malpractice insurance rates for another year.

Gov. Paterson signed the bill yesterday, spokesman Morgan Hook said.

Acting New York State Insurance Superintendent Kermitt Brooks said last month that setting new medical malpractice rates had been delayed because of the Senate leadership dispute that emerged between Democrats and Republicans.

A memo with the extension measure indicates that those involved in discussing solutions to the state’s medical malpractice problems need more time.

It states, “This bill would stabilize premiums for physicians and prevent a surcharge on premiums until June 30, 2010, while providing the executive, the legislature and stakeholders with additional time to develop long-term solutions to this complex problem. Doing so would also avoid a significant financial burden on physicians in the short-term.”

Medical malpractice writers in the state have frequently cited the state’s challenging legal environment coupled with rates that have been kept artificially low by regulators as a major problem. Medical professionals contend that medical malpractice insurance is too expensive, even with rates at their current suppressed levels.

Edward Amsler, vice president of Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company (MLMIC), the state’s largest private medical malpractice insurer, said the rate freeze “doesn’t solve anything,” and he compared it to putting a lid on top of a pot of boiling water.

Gov. Paterson signed the initial rate freeze in August of 2008. A statement at the time said, “The bill will hold rates stable as the legislature and Governor Paterson continue to work toward reforms that would provide significant and long-term premium relief for physicians, enhance patient safety and stabilize the medical malpractice insurance market.”

It said further, “The state is hopeful that these reforms can be finalized during the next regular legislative session.”

However, in April 2009 experts in the medical malpractice field told National Underwriter that since the rate freeze, they have heard very little regarding possible long-term solutions.

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