Self-insurance plan for southern Del. doctors would be beneficial

A year ago, the Legislature earmarked a $500,000 revolving loan fund to help doctors, weary of skyrocketing malpractice premiums, start up their own self-insurance company.

Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn, who requested S.B. 123, is predicting that the first Ob-Gyn Risk Retention Group will be up and running in lower Delaware by year’s end.

That would mean a better chance of securing prenatal care for mothers living in Kent and Sussex counties, as well as an end to the current state of women wandering north or across state lines to find a gynecologist who accepts new patients.

As many as 20 percent of physicians practicing in this specialty were expected shut down business or leave Kent and Sussex counties within the last year. But northern New Castle County has similar scheduling tales due to the shortages.

A national consultant with experience in setting up risk retention groups has been hired to work with Dr. Robert B. Hartman of Ob-Gyn Associates of Dover, who is spearheading the effort with other downstate physicians.

If run well, a risk retention group would be able to spend 75 to 85 cents on the dollar toward risk, compared to 45 to 55 cents spent in the commercial market. That’s because doctors know better what the real risks are and how to better manage them. This gives them an edge in resolving claims where mistakes are made much faster. It also positions them to aggressively defend against frivolous suits.

Such a group should also produce a better standard of care among the member doctors because each has a vested financial interest in the performance of their colleagues.

However, the startup’s financial commitment for each member-owner is a bit steep — 133 percent of the first-year annual premium. Here’s hoping the promise of no ongoing monetary requirements beyond the annual premium will be an even better incentive for other malpractice-weary physicians to join up.
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