The Missouri House passed legislation Wednesday that would tighten regulation of medical malpractice insurers as part of an effort to bring down premiums for physicians. The 141-11 vote sends the bill to the Senate. Sponsoring Rep. Richard Byrd said the bill would complement legislation signed into law last week by Gov. Matt Blunt that limits the money victims can win in medical malpractice cases and injury lawsuits.
Republicans—including Blunt—have said those new limits also will lead to lower medical malpractice rates for doctors.
“The insurance reform is important. It’s especially important to make sure the savings that occur (through the lawsuit limits bill) get passed on in the form of lowered premiums to the doctors,” Byrd, R-Kirkwood, said after the vote Wednesday. But some insurers argue the insurance legislation will not bring down premiums, because it will discourage insurance companies from coming to Missouri and dampen competition.
Under the legislation, all medical malpractice insurers would be required to submit detailed information about insurance rates to the state insurance department. Beginning in 2009, companies wishing to raise premiums 20 percent above the market rate established by the department would need approval from the department director.
The bill also requires insurers to provide notification to policyholders within 60 days if they plan to raise premiums by more than 10 percent. House members stripped a provision from the bill last week that would have required nursing homes to carry at least $500,000 of medical malpractice insurance. Some lawmakers voiced concerns about the requirement, saying it could burden nursing homes with an additional cost. But Byrd said the provision was intended to provide additional protection to nursing home patients.
“I thought it was important to make sure that our nursing homes are responsible if they injure a patient,” Byrd said.
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