No malpractice rate increase in Colorado for 2007

Filed under: Health Care |

COPIC Insurance Co. — which covers more than 80 percent of privately insured Colorado physicians — has announced that there will be no overall rate increase in its physician medical malpractice coverage for 2007.

Trends in claims losses will drive rate decreases in some medical specialties and increases in others.

“The net effect is that most Colorado physicians covered by COPIC will see their premiums remain roughly unchanged for the 2007 policy year,” Chairman and CEO Ted Clarke said.

As 21 other states wrestle with what the American Medical Association calls a “full-blown medical liability crisis,” Colorado physicians covered by COPIC continue to benefit from this state’s favorable medical liability climate, Clarke said.

“In this case, no news is great news,” he said. “Colorado is reaping the benefits of foresighted action by its elected officials who have affirmed and reaffirmed their commitment to tort reform. We told them that their commitment to tort reform would help restrain premiums and it has.”

Colorado hasn’t always been in such an enviable position. Before the Colorado Legislature passed the Health Care Availability Act in 1988, physicians were facing annual professional liability insurance increases of as much as 73 percent. That put a strain on physicians and limited access to health care for patients because physicians responded to the increases by ceasing to perform high-risk procedures, electing to retire early or moving out of state.

For most years since the enactment of that law — which included limits on non-economic damages — COPIC’s annual average rates have declined or been limited to single-digit increases. The only three years with double-digit increases, 2003-2005, followed a pair of Colorado Supreme Court rulings that undermined the reforms of the Health Care Availability Act.

However, the Colorado Legislature in 2003 passed legislation that mitigated the impact of those two Colorado Supreme Court rulings. That legislation has had a moderating effect on premiums.

The situation is dire in some states without Colorado’s level of tort reform. For example, in Florida, one of the AMA’s “crisis states,” OB/GYNs pay almost $300,000 in annual premiums, nearly six times more than their counterparts in Colorado.

Colorado is one of only six states that are deemed to be “currently OK.”

Nation’s ‘wired’ hospitals set example

The nation’s 100 Most Wired hospitals and health systems are helping consumers take charge of their health care by providing more tools via the Internet, according to results from the eighth annual Most Wired Survey.

Among the findings:

  • 64 percent provide online health coaching for obesity, smoking and chronic conditions
  • 49 percent allow patients to pre-register for services such as scheduling tests and appointments on-line
  • 32 percent allow patients to check test results online
  • 22 percent provide patients the opportunity to visit a physician virtually

“Consumers are doing everything from booking travel to managing their finances from their living rooms. The Most Wired hospitals provide the same opportunities with health care,” said Alden Solovy, executive editor of Hospitals and Health Networks, the journal of the American Hospital Association. “This will become the new house call.”

The nation’s 100 Most Wired are also using information technology to improve quality, satisfaction and patient care by investing in technology to streamline business and clinical practices; to improve patient safety; and to improve clinical outcomes, as follows:

  • 99 percent of the Most Wired hospitals provide digital radiology images in the hospital inpatient setting, compared with 72 percent of the Least Wired hospitals (defined as the 100 hospitals scoring lowest on the survey)
  • 92 percent of the medical records at Most Wired hospitals are available digitally, compared with 61 percent at Least Wired hospitals
  • 36 percent of medications are ordered electronically by physicians in Most Wired hospitals, compared with 2 percent among Least Wired hospitals

“As consumers become increasingly involved in their health care decisions, the Most Wired hospitals are providing the technology infrastructure necessary to address their needs,” said Lewis Redd, managing director of Accenture’s Health and Life Sciences Provider practice in North America. “This investment in clinical systems technology helps enable high performing providers to deliver higher quality results and better service to their patients and consumers.”

The Most Wired Survey is conducted annually by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, which uses the results to name the 100 Most Wired hospitals and health systems. It focuses on how the nation’s hospitals use of information technologies for quality, customer service, public health and safety, business processes and work force issues.

Hospitals & Health Networks conducted the 2006 survey in cooperation with Accenture, McKesson Corp. and the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives. The July H&HN cover story detailing results is available at www.hhnmag.com.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.