N.C. lawyers: Insurer fleeces docs

Claim is latest in 5-year campaign over malpractice lawsuits
DAVID RANII
(Raleigh) News & Observer
http://www.charlotte.com

Trial lawyers say the state’s largest medical malpractice insurer is unlawfully charging doctors “excessive” rates.

At a Tuesday news conference, the N.C. Academy of Trial Lawyers called on state Insurance Commissioner Jim Long to conduct a hearing into rates charged by Medical Mutual Insurance Co. of North Carolina, which insures about 6,300 doctors statewide.

For more than five years, the trial lawyers have engaged in a campaign to convince the public — and doctors, too — that the insurance companies, not malpractice lawsuits, are behind the rising cost of malpractice insurance.

But until now the group hadn’t questioned the legality of medical malpractice rates or asked the insurance commissioner to step in.

The trial lawyers unveiled an analysis by Jay Angoff, a lawyer and former insurance commissioner in Missouri, who said the amount of claims paid by Medical Mutual has been “very stable” from year to year “while premiums have gone way up.”

Medical Mutual’s general counsel, David Sousa, said the 30-year-old, physician-owned company has about 6,300 policyholders eligible to participate in electing the company’s board of directors. “Why would the doctors charge more to themselves than they have to charge?” Sousa said. “It is just ludicrous.”

State insurance department spokeswoman Chrissy Pearson said in an interview before the news conference that regulators would give the report serious consideration.
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