R.I. Lawmaker Seeks Med-Mal Rate Controls

Rhode Island Rep. Fausto C. Anguilla (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren) has introduced legislation aimed at reining in high and rising malpractice insurance premiums. His bill, the Fair Insurance Act of 2005, would prohibit insurers from charging Rhode Island doctors fees that it doesn’t charge doctors in other states, and would require expanded public disclosure of rates and policies.

“An insurance company should not be raising the premiums of doctors with good records of practicing safe medicine,” said Anguilla.

he said his proposal grew out of a House Judiciary Committee hearing last year at which doctors testified that their malpractice rates kept rising even though they’d never been sued. “It appears that insurers are, in some cases, overestimating the amount of malpractice payouts to justify higher premiums. There were also reports that Rhode Island doctors were being charged higher fees than doctors in other states and that the surpluses being held by the insurers were huge,” he added.

The Anguilla legislation was unveiled at a State House news conference held by the Fair Insurance Rhode Island coalition.

Marti Rosenberg, executive director of Ocean State Action, an advocacy group, helped organize the coalition with the Rhode Island Public Interest Research Group, the Rhode Island Trial Lawyers Association and other consumer advocacy groups. Said Rosenberg at the news conference: “This is insurance that covers every single person that ever seeks health care in Rhode Island. Yet we have no control over any of it. The state has an interest in stepping in.”

The bill would, among other things:
— Require the Department of Business Regulation to set rules to ensure that estimates of future losses conform more closely to actual experience;
— Prohibit rate increases when insurer surpluses are excessive;
— Allow the state to order refunds to doctors who have been overcharged;
— Limit the difference between the highest- and lowest-paying specialities to 500 percent, and
— Require rates to be based on how many malpractice claims a doctor has faced, and whether the doctor has taken steps to prevent malpractice.

The bill, (2005 – H5437) , has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. It is co-sponsored by Rep. Peter L. Lewiss (D-Dist. 37, Westerly), Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence), Rep. Robert B. Jacquard (D-Dist. 17, Cranston) and Rep. Timothy A. Williamson (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick).