State malpractice insurance may take applications in a week

The state-operated medical malpractice program will start taking doctors' applications Monday.

Insurance commissioner Alice Molasky-Arman said the Board of Examiners' approval of $250,000 Friday will cover start-up costs, including hiring American Governmental Risk & Insurance Programs to manage the Medical Liability Association of Nevada.

Molasky-Arman said the five-member board of directors headed by Reno insurance executive Robert Byrd will vote on rates and underwriting rules at their meeting April 22.

The first policies covering doctors will probably be issued a week after that. She expects up to 50 applications to be submitted for coverage by May 1.

Malpractice rates are different for every doctor depending on the specialty and what procedures he or she performs within their specialty. But Molasky-Arman said the state association is aiming to set rates at about 80 percent of what St. Paul Insurance Companies was approved for Sept. 1.

"I'm told no other state has been able to put together a plan like this in two years, let alone seven weeks," she said.

Gov. Kenny Guinn created the program less than two months ago after St. Paul, the largest medical malpractice carrier in Nevada, announced it was getting out of the business and several other carriers announced plans to seek huge rate hikes.

Doctors said many of them might be forced to move to a state such as California where there are limits on what a jury impose in malpractice cases. They and state officials say tort reform along the lines of California's law is what they want to fix the problem.

"It'll give us a bridge to get over to the next (legislative) session when we can fix it," said Guinn.

Molasky-Arman said AMGRIP will get $100,000 of the money to run the insurance program for the state. The rest of the money will be used for board and other expenses.

Although rates for doctors will begin at 80 percent of what St. Paul had planned to charge them, doctors will have to purchase "tail" coverage from St. Paul. That is coverage for "undiscovered past acts" -- meaning any lawsuits from their prior practice which haven't yet been filed.

But Molasky-Arman said that will allow the state to start all of them at the best possible rate for insurance because the state policy won't have to worry about any past actions or errors.


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