Medical group forms company that offers malpractice insurance

By Liv Osby

The South Carolina Medical Association has formed a new company to offer malpractice insurance to physicians in the state.

The South Carolina Physicians Assurance Company is designed as a safety net should commercial carriers leave the market during an earnings downturn, said Todd Atwater, CEO of SCMA and president of the new company.

Currently, most physicians have their malpractice insurance through South Carolina Joint Underwriters Association, which was formed about 25 years ago to make sure doctors could get malpractice insurance, he said. The new company is also a hedge against JUA instability, he said.

“Our number one goal is that physicians have coverage, whether it’s with us, the JUA or a commercial carrier,” Atwater said. “But we can’t take the chance there’s an underfunded situation (with JUA), or that a commercial carrier leaves the market, leaving our doctors without insurance.”

The new company’s premiums are “competitively priced,” he said, and meant to offer an alternative to commercial insurers.

Atwater said he expects the new company to insure only 500 to 600 of the 9,000 practicing physicians in the state.

Physicians Assurance is a stock-owned company with SCMA holding all the shares, he said. Though it’s a for-profit venture, it’s not designed to make a profit, he said.

The company has reserves of $2 million, provided by SCMA, he said. And physicians would pay 33 percent above premiums into a reserve account for claims to share the financial risk. At some point, he said, reserves might be returned to policyholders if the company took in more than it needed to pay claims and maintain reserves.

SCMA also offers health insurance to its members and their employers and families.

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