Tort reform has not produced promised cut in doctors’ insurance premiums
The current issue of Atlanta Business Chronicle includes a article by Kelly B. Thrasher, M.D.,, an Atlanta internal medicine specialist, pointing out that tort reform legislation has produced windfall profits for the insurance industry rather than savings for the physicians who were exploited in the political drive to get the legislation passed.
The Medical Association of Georgia, which represents about a third of the state’s physicians, “was misinformed about tort reform and malpractice insurance” and “informed physicians that their malpractice insurance would decrease if the legislature passed a tort reform bill.”
In September, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) announced that “the U.S. property and casualty insurance industry… holds assets in excess of 1.3 trillion dollars.” From 2002-2003, when insurance costs for physicians were skyrocketing, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America documented a historic, record-breaking 900 percent profit increase for the industry, in which pure profits increased from $3 billion to over $29 billion in one year. Amazingly, industry analysts A.M. Best and Weiss Ratings Inc. reported that the industry almost doubled that profit in 2004, with final profit figures topping $41 billion.
Not surprisingly, the timing of these windfall profit increases for the insurance industry parallels the same time period that the American Medical Association christened the “crisis years” for the medical community. Yet, during hours of hearings held earlier this year at the State Capitol, none of Rep. Rice’s friends in the insurance industry were called to answer any questions.
There is no doubt in my mind that wild, unchecked increases in the cost of malpractice insurance drove many good physicians out of business, particularly in rural Georgia. That crisis still rages here in Georgia at the expense of the medical community — a crisis of accountability in the Goliath insurance industry. Unfortunately, the so-called “reform” in Senate Bill 3 does nothing to hold insurance companies accountable to their policyholders — or to the state insurance commissioner, for that matter. Without real reform targeting insurance industry greed that is clearly at the root of recent rate hikes, the medical community will never enjoy the “stability in medical costs” that Rice hopes for.
I have always been sympathetic with the doctors who are caught between health insurance and managed care organizations severely limiting what they are paid and malpractice insurance companies gouging them on premiums. However, it amazed me that the medical profession focussed so much energy on lobbying on behalf of the insurance industry rather than loss prevention and financial disclosure in the insurance industry.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).