Board Votes to Privatize Medical Malpractice Plan
by Jon Kalahar

Five years ago the “medical malpractice availability plan” was created by the state legislature to keep physicians from leaving Mississippi. It offered doctors malpractice insurance they desperately needed to practice medicine.

Now through tort reform, the plan can be sold to a private company. We explain how the state went from crisis to profit.

This was the scene before tort reform. Hundreds of doctors filled the capital steps asking the state legislature for help. A crisis was averted when the legislature passed a tort reform bill in 2004.

“Physicians weren’t coming to the state, physicians that we were educating and training with tax payers money were leaving the state and to staying here,” said Dr. Randy Easterling, board consultant.

The tort reform bill capped the amount of damages a patient could receive in a medical malpractice suit. But doctors still needed the malpractice insurance, so the medical malpractice availability plan or M-MAP stayed in business. Thursday, with tort reform in full affect, M-MAP is expendable.

“Not often times is it good for government to step in, but in this case it was an it’s an even better thing that government can now step out,” said Quintin Whitwell, chairman of State Tort Claims Board.

The state tort claims board took bids from malpractice insurers to sell the plan. They heard the two ideas and voted to accept one. And by the time the deal is closed, M-Map will make Mississippi six million dollars richer.

“I think the board make the best decision based on the information they had and I think its going to be in the best interest of the patients of the state,” said Easterling.

And for physicians as well. Something not thought possible just a few years ago.

“For once we did the right thing by taking the plan under and covering these doctors in a time of crisis and now that that time of crisis has ended thanks to the strong tort reform efforts,” said Whitwell.

Efforts that now make Mississippi a better place to practice medicine.

Once the private company takes over, all insurance rates will stay the same for three years. And all 200 or so doctors insured by M-MAP will remain under the new companies plan.
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