Del. Regulator Backs Health Pool; Cites New Risk Retention Group

Delaware Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn urged General Assembly budget writers to fund the creation of a health insurance pool that could cover 10,000 Delawareans.

He also reported that a group of Kent County doctors has decided to form a risk retention group to provide malpractice coverage.

Presenting the Department of Insurance budget request for the fiscal year that begins July 1, Denn told members of the Joint Finance Committee that his office’s “top priority is quality, affordable health care for Delawareans.”

Denn urged support for a recommendation in Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s proposed budget to use $5 million to fund health coverage for the uninsured and underinsured.

“My office has proposed legislation, with broad bipartisan support from your colleagues and support from Delaware’s business, non-profit, and social service communities, to create a statewide health insurance purchasing pool to reduce the cost of health insurance for thousands of Delawareans,” Denn said. “The Governor’s $5 million funding proposal would allow the state to start this pool for approximately 10,000 Delawareans.”

Denn also provided an update on the Medical Malpractice Initiative Pilot Program, which set aside $500,000 of department money to loan to doctors to set up their own medical malpractice insurance entities. These doctor-owned groups should reduce premiums through lower overhead, the elimination of profits and better self-policing when it comes to managing risks.

“We now have a group of doctors in Kent County – including a group of OB-GYN doctors, which are a special concern for me – who are taking the initial steps towards creating their own malpractice company,” Denn said.

Dr. Thomas Barnett, a Dover surgeon, testified after Denn’s presentation that an initiative to help doctors reduce their medical malpractice costs is badly needed, especially downstate, where doctors have left practice due to high insurance premiums.

“We have gone from three neurosurgeons in 1999 at Kent General to zero today. With OB-GYNs, we’ve gone from 15 a few years ago to eight,” Dr. Barnett said. “This will help us attract those specialties.”

The Department of Insurance proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes a 1.47 percent increase to a total of $25.7 million. The increase consists mainly of inflationary items and does not include any new positions, despite increased activities and responsibilities in the department.

“Since taking office in January 2005, I have reduced the department’s travel and other expenses and shifted resources to consumer-focused activities, consistent with my priorities of consumer service, protection, and information,” Denn said. “That resource shift allowed me to increase staffing of consumer services, anti-fraud, and information technology employees. This proposed budget continues that emphasis.”

Source: Delaware Insurance Department