Del. Undertakes 5-Point Plan to Address Medical Malpractice and Attract More Competition

April 4, 2005

Delaware Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn and a bi-partisan group of legislative leaders, physicians, and civic leaders announced today a series of initiatives to address Delaware’s medical malpractice insurance rates.

“This is a comprehensive, bi-partisan effort to deal with the rising cost of medical malpractice premiums,” Denn said. “Controlling medical malpractice premiums is part of controlling the cost of health care. These new initiatives are pragmatic and achievable, and together they will help us address the problem of rising malpractice premiums head-on.”

The five parts of the medical malpractice initiative are:
A high-profile recruitment team which will reach out to different malpractice insurance companies around the country who do not currently issue policies in Delaware, and explain the benefits of competing for the business of issuing medical malpractice business in Delaware. The hope is that increased competition will bring down insurance premiums. This team will be led by former Delaware Supreme Court Chief Justice E. Norman Veasey, and includes Dr. Vincent Killeen, a Lewes OB/GYN.

Bi-partisan legislation that will be introduced to create a targeted subsidy for specialists who have been hardest hit by escalating medical malpractice premiums. Denn believes the subsidies will help keep needed medical specialists in Delaware. This subsidy will be funded by a surcharge on health service corporation excess reserves. The legislation’s chief sponsors are Senator Patricia Blevins (D-Elsmere) and Representative William Oberle (R-Newark).

A group of experts who will examine the feasibility of creating a self-insurance risk retention group for Delaware physicians, which would allow physicians to own and operate their own insurance company. By self-insuring and spreading out risk, Delaware physicians may be able to better control their costs of doing business, while still covering their professional liabilities and protecting consumers, according to sponsors of this idea. This group includes Republican and Democratic legislators, three physicians, and MBNA Vice President Catherine Mulholland, a former Deputy Insurance Commissioner for the State of Delaware.

Bi-partisan legislation that will expand the reporting requirements for cases in which doctors pay out damages to medical malpractice victims, either through settlement of claims or through jury verdicts. This legislation, also sponsored by Senator Blevins and Representative Oberle, is designed to improve the insurance department’s ability to monitor trends in medical malpractice costs in Delaware, and to improve the department’s ability to report poor medical practices by health care providers to the Board of Medical Practice.

To enable better oversight, the department of Insurance will retain local medical malpractice lawyers to review the claims being submitted by medical malpractice insurance carriers to justify the rates they want the department to approve. According to Denn, these reviews will ensure that the carriers are not overstating the value of outstanding claims and thereby charging excessive malpractice premiums.

Senator Blevins was optimistic about the prospect of the bi-partisan legislation being enacted into law. “This legislation is designed to bypass many of the ideological struggles we have had over medical malpractice in Delaware, and instead provide some short-term relief where it is needed,” she said. “I think legislators who are concerned about the cost of health care will be happy to support it.”

Chief Justice Veasey said that he was looking forward to sharing the benefits of Delaware’s civil justice system with out-of-state medical malpractice insurance companies. “I am very proud of the cautious, consistent civil juries that have been our tradition in Delaware, as well as the outstanding judges who oversee the medical malpractice cases that our courts hear,” Veasey said. “Our courts and judges have consistently been ranked among the best in the nation by the United States Chamber of Commerce. I look forward to sharing the benefits of Delaware’s civil justice system with potential medical malpractice insurers.”

Members of the recruitment team include Chief Justice Veasey, Chief Judge Vincent Bifferato, Bart Dalton, Esq. and Dr. Vincent Killeen.

The risk retention group team includes Rep. Joe Dipinto, Dr. Steven Edell, Dr. Alan Fink, Joe Letnaunchyn, Rep. Bethany Hall-Long, Dr. Helen McCullough and Catherine Mulholland

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