The largest medical malpractice insurer in Illinois plans to lift a four-year-old moratorium on new business, citing an improved economic and legal climate.
ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co., which provides malpractice coverage for 13,000 doctors, announced this week that it plans to add up to 400 new physician policy holders beginning April 1.
The company imposed the moratorium in 2003, saying large jury awards were draining its financial reserves. But reforms passed by the General Assembly have helped lower the number of claims filed, ISMIE said. The number of claims for the 2005-06 policy year, which ended June 30, fell 25 percent, the insurer said.
“We see very positive signs that things are improving here, that litigation reforms are really beginning to work,” said Dr. Harold Jensen, chairman of Chicago-based ISMIE.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a medical malpractice reform law in 2005 that sets a cap on awards for pain and suffering at $500,000 for individual physicians and $1 million for hospitals. The law was backed by doctors, hospitals and insurers.
The reforms came in response to rising insurance premiums that prompted some doctors to leave the state or retire.
Doctors and insurers blamed the rate increases on out-of-control lawsuit awards, while trial lawyers and victim advocates condemned insurance mismanagement.
During the moratorium, ISMIE only sold malpractice insurance to doctors at clinics that were already insured by ISMIE and doctors fulfilling their residencies who were graduating.
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