Ohio Department Closer to Obtaining $12 Million for Med-Mal Initiatives

December 18, 2003

Legislation that would help stabilize the market for medical malpractice insurance in Ohio passed the Ohio House of Representatives Insurance Committee, Insurance Director Ann Womer Benjamin announced. A floor vote by the full House is expected in January.

The legislation would create a $12 million fund for medical malpractice initiatives, and would authorize the Insurance Director to establish a new Medical Liability Underwriting Association (MLUA) if the market worsened.

“The current state of the market for medical liability coverage dictates the urgency for passage of this legislation,” Womer Benjamin said. “The Department of Insurance must have the flexibility to act quickly on behalf of doctors and patients in Ohio. This issue has been the focus of the Department since the beginning of this year, and I am committed to ensuring that doctors remain in Ohio delivering quality health care to Ohioans.”

Womer Benjamin has twice testified before the committee to support the amendments to HB 282, sponsored by Representative Larry Flowers (R – Canal Winchester). The legislation, as amended, would provide for the transfer of $12 million from the Ohio Joint Underwriting Association (JUA), a 1975 state-created medical malpractice insurance company, which is being terminated by law. The money could be used to fund a new MLUA or other initiatives decided by the General Assembly. The Ohio Medical Malpractice Commission, established under SB 281, also is expected to recommend curative measures to the legislature, some of which may require funding.

The legislation would also give the Director authority to create the MLUA if the current market for medical malpractice insurance would further deteriorate. The MLUA would write primary insurance coverage for doctors unable to find medical liability coverage. The operational aspects of the MLUA would be similar to the JUA.

Since Jan. 6, 2003, Womer Benjamin has been working to address medical malpractice concerns, including the implementation of the requirements of SB 281; the creation of a system for reporting medical malpractice lawsuits, outcomes and settlements; the rigorous review of rate filings; and the initiation of examinations of the rating and underwriting practices of Ohio’s top medical malpractice insurers.

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