PIAA: Murky Stats Enter Wash. Med-Mal Debate

November 3, 2005

Repeating failed efforts in other states such as Rhode Island, Maryland, Illinois and the District of Columbia, trial lawyer and former Missouri Insurance Commissioner Jay Angoff has reportedly issued another intentionally misleading report – this time in Washington State, according to the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA).

According to PIAA, Angoff is an often-used tool of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and its state affiliates, and often publishes under the auspices of a “consumer group” named the Center for Justice and Democracy (CJD), widely believed to be funded by plaintiff injury lawyers.

The CJD’s new report, An Analysis of the Claims Payments and Performance of Physicians Insurance A Mutual Company, 1995-2005, focuses on the financial operations of Washington’s largest medical malpractice insurer, which is owned and operated by the doctors it insures. As in other similar attempts, Angoff reportedly employs unsound analysis and unrecognized statistical techniques to reach his unsupported conclusions.

In July of this year, Angoff and the CJD released a report commenting on the financial operations of the nation’s 15 largest insurers, and found the malpractice insurance industry to be “wildly, breathtakingly profitable in 2004.” However, no one reportedly agrees with him. Not the president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, not the American Academy of Actuaries (AAA), not academicians, and not independent actuarial firms.

In a recent statement, the AAA reportedly cited Angoff’s work as being “incomplete, actuarially unsound and misleading.” The AAA does not often comment on specific studies, but felt compelled “because of the public attention [Angoff’s study] has received, the apparent credibility ascribed to its conclusions and, in our view, the poor quality of the analysis.”

When asked about Angoff’s report, Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Susan Cogswell noted that if malpractice insurers were raking in record profits, why had the number of such insurers in Connecticut dropped from 19 to three. “The information is certainly inconsistent with what we’ve been seeing in the marketplace,” Cogswell said. “Many insurers are leaving the market either because they can’t provide at profitable rates, or because they are going insolvent.”

Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger responded to the Angoff report as well. “The experience of the marketplace over the last several years does not support the conclusions of the report,” Praeger said.

According to the PIAA, The medical malpractice environment in Washington is a complex issue, and the public and media must look beyond the rhetoric and murky statistics and seek the truth.

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