Several Insurance Firms Taking in Wyoming Doctors

May 12, 2004

Three insurance companies are offering medical malpractice plans to Wyoming doctors who are losing coverage with the pullout of the state’s largest insurer.

Seven of the state’s hospitals and 381 doctors must find another medical malpractice insurance carrier because OHIC Insurance Co. is pulling out of the state this fall.

Wyoming Insurance Commissioner Ken Vines said while other insurers are stepping into the void, Wyoming doctors may end up paying higher premiums.

“Now the issue is more the cost of the policies than the availability,” Vines said.

At the same time, the governor’s office is actively seeking options that could be offered should legislators call a special session to wrestle with the medical malpractice insurance problem.

Physicians have advocated a special session to address the idea of limiting noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. Lawyers oppose any caps on damage awards.

A proposal to limit damage awards failed in the budget session earlier this year.

The governor’s office is trying to get an accurate count of the number of doctors in the state in order to determine if Wyoming is losing physicians, said Lara Azar, Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s press secretary.

During the budget session last winter, legislators heard different numbers. The Equality State Policy Center said more physicians are coming to Wyoming than are leaving, while the Wyoming Medical Society said more are leaving and residents are losing access to medical care.

“We’re trying to put together some good numbers so we’re at the same starting point,” Azar said.

House Majority Floor Leader Randall Luthi, R-Freedom, said he has talked to House Speaker Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs, and other legislators about a special session but “we don’t see a need until we have a solution or at least a new solution.”

Wyoming currently has 1,040 physicians with active medical licenses, but the number includes about 100 retired physicians.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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