The Missouri Insurance Department will have more information and control over medical malpractice insurance rates under legislation Gov. Matt Blunt signed Monday.
The bill gives the state insurance director authority to veto medical malpractice rates that are excessive, inadequate or “unfairly discriminatory.” But unlike past proposals, it doesn’t set thresholds for what rates are considered excessive, and rates don’t require the director’s approval before taking effect. Instead, they must just be reported to the director, who can reject them, using a variety of criteria.
Among them, rates are supposed to be based as much as possible on an insurer’s Missouri claims experience, not losses elsewhere. Investment decisions, along with inflation and geographic area, also can be considered.
Supporters say this year’s legislation is the second phase of efforts to keep doctors in the state by bringing down what they pay for malpractice insurance. Last year, lawmakers approved new caps on court judgments as part of several changes to the civil litigation system.
Both doctors and insurance groups also said Monday that while they expect the lawsuit limits passed last year will have more of an impact on doctors’ insurance costs, this bill also helps.
“The primary reason medical malpractice insurance costs are so high is excessive litigation,” Blunt said. “This is a positive step to help ensure that we have good data. It is a step we can take to control those costs.”