Mo. Lawmakers Vote to Allow Insurance Director Authority to Veto Excessive Med Mal Rates

May 15, 2006

Missouri lawmakers voted recently to give the state insurance director the authority to veto medical malpractice rates that are “excessive” or otherwise inappropriate in an effort to help cut doctors’ insurance rates.

The House gave final approval to (HB 1837) by 155-4 vote. The bill gives the state more authority to regulate medical malpractice insurance providers while also requiring that more information about insurance coverage be reported to the state. The bill now goes to the governor.

Supporters say the change is a key component in efforts to keep doctors in the state by bringing down what physicians must pay to get malpractice insurance coverage. Last year, lawmakers approved new caps on court judgments as part of several changes to the civil litigation system.

Rep. Brian Yates said his bill would help the state collect important insurance information, would give the Department of Insurance more authority in overseeing insurance rates and would be a “complement to tort reform.”

But critics questioned whether the state should be getting more involved in the insurance market.

The bill would also require reporting of insurance premium costs and losses and the potential for claims. The state would use the data to publish market information for various risk types and a comparison of base rates for the largest medical malpractice insurance companies.

There will also be a study to consider creating a “health care stabilization fund” to provide additional malpractice insurance coverage. Kansas has created the fund, and lawmakers were divided about whether to create one in Missouri.

The bill would increase the authority of the state insurance director, giving that official the power to veto rates, levy penalties and seek court action against insurers, and issue subpoenas and place witnesses under oath to investigate malpractice insurance disputes.

Medical malpractice is HB1837

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