Nevada Gov. Unveils Medical Malpractice Insurance Reform
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn (R) yesterday announced an expansion of the Medical Liability Association of Nevada -- a state program established in March to help doctors meet their medical malpractice insurance costs -- to include the cost of prior acts coverage, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (Morrison, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/30). Guinn established the $250,000 program after Minnesota-based St. Paul Cos., which had provided malpractice insurance to about 60% of Nevada doctors, announced last December that the company would no longer sell malpractice insurance. Under the program, doctors can purchase malpractice insurance from the state for about $36,000 per year (Gorman, Los Angeles Times, 3/14). However, doctors who participate in the program also must purchase prior acts coverage -- which requires a one-time payment to their former malpractice insurers equal to about twice the cost of their annual premiums -- to cover "unreported incidents subsequent to the termination of a policy with the company" (Office of the Governor release, 5/29). State officials said that prior acts coverage often costs between $100,000 and $125,000 (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 5/29). Under the expanded program, the state will cover the cost of prior acts coverage for doctors. In addition, Guinn said the expanded program will reduce malpractice insurance premiums for surgical OB/GYNs by 18% and eliminate the tiered system that based OB/GYN premiums on the number of babies delivered each year (Office of the Governor release, 5/29). The expanded program will allow most OB/GYNs to purchase malpractice insurance and prior acts coverage from the state for about $88,500 per year (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/30).
According to the Review-Journal, about 206 doctors have applied to participate in MLAN, but only 11 of the state's 140 OB/GYNs have applied. Malpractice insurance rates have increased "dramatic[ally]" in Nevada since last December, and many doctors, including a number of OB/GYNs and trauma surgeons, have decided to retire, leave the state or no longer perform "risky" procedures. Earlier this month, for example, the Clark County OB/GYN Society reported that most of the 93 OB/GYNs in southern Nevada have begun "turning away" pregnant women as a result of increased malpractice insurance costs (Vogel, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/29). Guinn said that he hoped the expanded program will address some of the financial concerns of OB/GYNs and trauma surgeons. "I believe this upgraded plan now offered by MLAN will help provide necessary medical care in emergency rooms and maternity wards," he said (Office of the Governor release, 5/29).
Guinn also said yesterday that he will ask the state attorney general to file suit against St. Paul for allegedly "precipitating the malpractice insurance crisis" in Nevada. He said the state's lawsuit against the company would allege "unfair trade practices, unauthorized policy modifications ... and unlawful policy cancellations." In addition, Guinn said he supports legislation that would place a $250,000 cap on pain and suffering damages in malpractice lawsuits. The Review-Journal reports that Guinn may call a special session of the state Legislature to address the issue before lawmakers begin their next session in February 2003 (Las Vegas Review-Journal, 5/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.