Part 1: As hospitals acquire physician practices, Texas agent sees opportunity

Editor’s note: Today’s blogpost is the first of a three-part series on how a successful medical malpractice insurance agent views the future of the market and the broker’s role within it. The article it originates from was initially published in the April 2012 issue of Medical Liability Monitor, the industry’s premier source for consistent, reliable coverage and fresh perspectives on medical professional liability insurance and risk management issues.

The Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act (PPACA) intends to change the U.S. healthcare delivery model to one where healthcare providers meeting certain criteria work together to manage and coordinate patient care through an accountable-care-organization (ACO) model in order to meet specific quality performance standards. Since its passage in 2010, hospital systems have responded to the reforms by accelerating their hiring of physicians.

According to a May 2011 article on the hospital employment physicians published in the New England Journal of Medicine, more than half of all physicians practicing in the United States are now employed by hospitals or an integrated delivery system, and that number is expected to grow due to PPACA incentives intended to favor the creation of ACOs and bundled reimbursement payments based on defined population data.

How the migration toward a fully integrated healthcare delivery model will ultimately affect the medical professional liability insurance industry is yet to be seen, but proactive organizations have already started catering to the needs of tomorrow’s healthcare environment.

Barry Couch, founder and chief executive of HealthSure, works with hospital boards, physician groups and healthcare management teams to create competitive advantages, control costs and put together insurance packages to cover and reduce risks in the healthcare industry. A hospital trustee and licensed risk manager, Couch founded the Austin, Texas-based medical liability insurance agency more than a decade ago to help the medical liability industry address the challenges facing the healthcare community.

Couch’s previous 22-year experience serving on the board of directors at King’s Daughter Hospital in Temple, Texas, and his past service as a trustee delegate on the American Hospital Association’s Regional Policy Board had earned him regard in hospital circles. So when the Texas Organization of Rural Community Hospitals (TORCH) was looking for a new perspective for their insurance program, he was a natural contact.

“Several years ago, during the last hard market, I was approached by TORCH to help a couple of public hospitals set-up self-insurance programs,” Couch said. “TORCH then asked if I would takeover their entire insurance program. We did, and the program has grown exponentially since.”

Editor’s note: Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this three-part series. Barry Couch will explain how his company caters to the independent, rural hospitals in Texas.

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