Malpractice Reform Pays Off for Some

By the News-Register

Just a few years ago, many West Virginia health care professionals complained that the high cost of malpractice insurance was forcing them to drop certain specialties, retire or leave the state. State officials did something about that — but now we wonder whether the “cure� isn’t running a bit of a fever itself.

That fever is in the red-hot salaries being paid to some employees of the state physicians mutual insurance company.

In 2003, legislators enacted tort reform to lessen malpractice lawsuit pressure. They also established the physicians mutual insurance company, helping it along with a $24 million low-interest state loan.

Malpractice insurance premiums reportedly are more reasonable than they were in the past. More than two-thirds of the state’s physicians now have policies through the mutual.

And some of its employees are doing quite well. According to The Charleston Daily Mail, the mutual’s president and chief executive officer, David Rader, was paid $429,750 last year. Tamara Lively, the chief operating officer, received $227,250. Chief Financial Officer Gary Schultz was paid $226,000 and Vice President Deborah Lessard received $140,625. The company has just eight other employees.

In 2003, some physicians complained that lawyers were growing rich through malpractice lawsuits. Now, it appears that a few other people are growing rich in helping to protect doctors against malpractice suits.

The physicians mutual is a private company, so there isn’t much the state can do about the outrageous salaries. But health care professionals — who in effect own the company — can. They should think about that before they ask any more favors from the Legislature.
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