The Ohio Department of Insurance recently announced that years of escalating premiums for medical malpractice insurance for the state’s doctors may be ending.
For the first time in six years, an insurer is lowering rates, the Ohio Department said. Medical Protective Co. received department approval for a 5 percent decrease for 2006. In addition, two smaller insurers have entered the Ohio market.
Rates for the five major malpractice carriers, who cover two-thirds of the state market, went up by an average 6.7 percent in 2005, compared with 20 percent in 2004 and 30 percent in the two years before that.
“The Department has been aggressive in its scrutiny of medical liability companies as premiums soared in recent years, and we are beginning to see signs of stabilization in the market,” Insurance Director Womer Benjamin said. “We have also worked closely with the medical community to help doctors find affordable liability coverage so they can continue to serve Ohio patients.”
State officials have been concerned that Ohio doctors are retiring early or have stopped providing high risk services such as delivering babies, saying that the liability insurance premiums are too high. And, few new insurance companies have entered the market in the last few years. Insurance department officials believe that picture is changing.
According to the Director Benjamin, The National Association of Insurance Commissioners will issue its annual profitability report in late January. The report is expected to show 2004 as the first profitable year for Ohio’s medical malpractice insurance industry since 1997. A return to profitability combined with continued stability in loss experience may enable rates to level off and to possibly decrease, similar to those of Medical Protective, she said.
Doctors in the state credit a 2003 tort reform law that caps the amount of jury awards in malpractice lawsuits. Insurance companies blamed high jury awards for higher rates. Fewer cases have been filed in recent years, according to the Ohio State Medical Association.
Source: Ohio Insurance Department
For more information: www.ohioinsurance.gov
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