California Expands Order for Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies to Partially Refund Premiums Amid ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

May 18, 2020 by matray

Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a Bulletin last week that extends his previous order requiring insurance companies to return partial insurance premiums to consumers and businesses and provide financial relief amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Insurance reports that it intends to review all premium adjustments to ensure they are fair and adequate and reflect policyholders’ reduced risk.

The Bulletin now includes the month of May, having already included the months of March and April, covering at least six different insurance lines: medical malpractice, private passenger automobile, commercial automobile, workers’ compensation, commercial multi-peril, commercial liability and any other insurance line where the risk of loss has fallen substantially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commissioner’s Bulletin 2020-4 requires insurance companies to provide an adjustment to the premium in the form of a premium credit, reduction, return of premium or other appropriate adjustment as soon as possible, and no later than August 11, 2020. For most if not all consumers, this will be a percentage of the premium — not 100 percent — and the Department of Insurance will validate each insurance company’s plan so that refunds are adequate and reflect the reduced risk.

“With the vast majority of Californians still under ‘stay at home’ orders, the risk of accident and loss remains low for many lines of insurance and their premiums should reflect that,” said Commissioner Lara. “While I appreciate companies that have already taken action to return premiums, the Department of Insurance will be checking that the reductions are adequate and consumers and businesses are not shortchanged.”

On March 18, Commissioner Lara issued a Notice, calling on all admitted and non-admitted insurance companies to provide their policyholders with a 60-day grace period to pay their premiums. With the deadline for this grace period fast approaching, Commissioner Lara today issued a second Notice requesting insurance companies to work with their policyholders who may be struggling financially to allow them an additional 60-days, effectively extending the grace period until July 14, 2020. After July 14, 2020, insurers are encouraged to work with their individual policyholders who have been acutely impacted by COVID-19 and are still unable to timely pay their premiums.

“Consumers who have lost their jobs or businesses due to this crisis deserve flexibility in paying their premiums, just like any other,” Lara sai. “I am asking insurance companies to be mindful of the revenue stream Californians have consistently provided to insurers over the years, stand with their customers in this crisis and extend grace periods an additional 60 days.”

Lara is also requesting that all insurance agents, brokers and other licensees who accept premium payments on behalf of insurers take steps to ensure that customers have the ability to make prompt insurance payments, if and where possible. This includes alternate methods of payment, such as online payments, to eliminate the need for in-person payment methods in order to protect the health and safety of both workers and customers.

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Elizabeth Leedom, Margaret Byrnes Named Recipients of the 2020 MPL Industry Defender Award

May 13, 2020 by matray

The Medical Professional Liability (MPL) Association announced that it will award Elizabeth A. Leedom and Margaret Byrnes with its MPL Industry Defender Award. Leedom and Byrnes are being recognized for outstanding lifelong contributions to defending physicians, other healthcare professionals, hospitals and clinics, and their exceptional work on behalf of medical liability insurers. The MPL Association is the international organization representing the medical professional liability insurance community.

Elizabeth Leedom is an experienced trial attorney who has represented hospitals, physicians and other providers in medical liability cases for more than 30 years. Currently a shareholder at Bennett Bigelow & Leedom in Seattle, she has special expertise in cases involving obstetrics, neurosurgery, anesthesia and emergency medicine. Leedom has tried more than 75 malpractice cases to verdict, receiving a defense verdict more than 90 percent of the time. She was selected as a Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and as the first woman member from her state in the International Society of Barristers. Leedom has also been active as a member of the American Board of Trial Advocates, serving as Washington state chapter president, national board member, and in 2013, its Trial Lawyer of the Year. She has been named her state’s Lawyer of the Year, Defense Medical Malpractice by Best Lawyers four times.

A consultant to Wallmans Lawyers in Adelaide, Australia, Margaret Byrnes specializes in medical and clinical negligence, professional liability and risk management. She has represented and advised health professionals and facilities, medical indemnity insurers and medical defense organizations. She also provides risk management advice to medical defense organizations and individual health professionals. Byrnes was a participant in the first concurrent evidence trial in the Supreme Court of South Australia and she has defended many catastrophic birth injury cases. In 2011, 2017 and 2019, Byrnes was given the Lawyer of the Year Award (Adelaide) for her work in the health law sector. Additionally, in 2018 and 2019 Byrnes was listed as “the market leader” in Doyles Guide to Leading Medical Defence Lawyers.

“We are honored to recognize the significant accomplishments of these two remarkable legal practitioners,” said Brian K. Atchinson, president and CEO, MPL Association. “Our legal colleagues play a key role in the defense of care delivery. Through their diligent work with medical professional liability companies and indemnifiers, Elizabeth Leedom and Margaret Byrnes have been valuable partners through their effective representation of physicians, healthcare practices and hospitals. Both recipients personify excellence in the field. On behalf of our members and those they insure, the MPL Association is pleased to honor their work.”

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Two Houston Medical Malpractice Plaintiff Law Firms Reject Coronavirus Lawsuits

May 12, 2020 by matray

To honor and support the heroes of the healthcare system in Texas, Houston-based law firms Brown, Christie & Green and McGehee, Chang, Landgraf, Feiler have announced that they will not accept COVID-19 cases that seek to sue doctors, hospitals or nursing homes for their good-faith efforts in treating COVID-19 patients.

In their coronavirus lawsuit announcement, Brown, Christie & Green managing partner, Charles Brown, said, “Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we believe that, under the circumstances, assuming good-faith efforts to treat, that we can neither prove a breach of the standard of care nor causation. We do not believe that there is a true standard of care in light of the uniqueness of this situation.

In a similar announcement, McGehee, Chang, Landgraf, Feiler said, “We know that hospitals are doing their best to write new policies, try new protocols and manage the pandemic. As they develop responses, mistakes will be made. Some mistakes will hurt people. Some mistakes will look obvious in retrospect. This problem is unprecedented until we find a solution.”

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Dr. Richard Anderson to Receive 2020 MPL Association Award of Excellence in Honor of Peter Sweetland

May 11, 2020 by matray

The Medical Professional Liability (MPL) Association announced Richard Anderson, MD, FACP, chairman and chief executive of The Doctors Company, will be the recipient of the 2020 Award of Excellence in Honor of Peter Sweetland. Dr. Anderson is being honored for his singular contributions and longtime dedication to the MPL insurance community, the MPL Association and healthcare professionals. The MPL Association is the international organization representing the medical professional liability insurance community.

Dr. Anderson is also a director of The Doctors Company Foundation. A former clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Diego, Dr. Anderson is past chair of the Department of Medicine at Scripps Memorial Hospital, where he served as senior oncologist for 18 years.

Dr. Anderson is editor of the book, Medical Malpractice: A Physician’s Sourcebook, and the author of a number of peer-reviewed publications on medical malpractice, the Harvard Medical Practice Study and the impact of defensive medicine.

Formerly the chair of the board of the MPL Association, Dr. Anderson currently serves as vice-chair for the MPL Association Education & Research Foundation, on the Board of Overseers of the RAND Institute for Civil Justice and as a faculty member for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI).

“Richard is a committed, tireless advocate for the MPL industry,” said Mary-Lou Misrahy, ARM, chair of the MPL Association, CEO of Alestri Insurance Company, and CEO Emeritus of Physicians Insurance A Mutual Company. “His perspective as a physician and his extensive knowledge of the practice of medicine are key to the consideration of critical issues in the MPL industry.”

“We are very pleased to honor Dr. Anderson for his extraordinary commitment to the physician community, the MPL industry, and this Association,” said Brian K. Atchinson, president and CEO of the MPL Association. “We are grateful for his remarkable dedication of time and energy over the years to support this organization and its members.”

The MPL Association Award of Excellence in Honor of Peter Sweetland, established in 1993 by MPL Association’s Board of Directors, was created in honor of the late Peter Sweetland, one of the MPL Association’s chief architects and most fervent supporters. The award recognizes an individual who has provided exemplary service to the industry and to the MPL Association, and who epitomizes the high ideals and ethics for which Peter Sweetland stood.

Due to the cancellation of 2020 MPL Association Conference, the award will be presented to Dr. Anderson at a future date.

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The MPL Association Elects James Q. Swift as Board Chair, Appoints Three New Officers

May 8, 2020 by matray

James Q. Swift, DDS, FACS, director and chair of OMS National Insurance Co. (OMSNIC) and its wholly owned subsidiary, Fortress Insurance Co., has been selected to serve as the chair of the Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association). He is the first dentist to serve as chair of the organization.

Serving since 2014 as director and chair of OMSNIC, a medical professional liability insurance company with 100% specialization in oral and maxillofacial surgery, Dr. Swift is also a professor in the Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. Dr. Swift is a former president of the American Dental Education Association as well as former President of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. In 2009, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Dental Education Association. In 2015, he received the Robert V. Walker Distinguished Service Award from the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. Dr. Swift practices full-scope oral and maxillofacial surgery in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

“The MPL industry faces unprecedented change and challenge, particularly as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold,” said Dr. Swift. “I look forward to working with the Association board members, its member companies, affiliate partners, and staff during this historic time. The work of the MPL Association to advance and defend the interests of its members and to promote the quality delivery of healthcare is more critical now than ever.”

In addition to naming Dr. Swift its chair, the MPL Association — the leading international organization representing the MPL insurance community — elected three new board members to three-year terms.

Sarah E. Scher, JD, RN, is chief executive officer of the Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. (CAP) and of the Mutual Protection Trust (MPT). Ms. Scher, who has an extensive leadership background in healthcare, law, patient safety, risk management, captive insurance, and medical professional liability, directs all CAP businesses, which provide access to medical professional liability protection, patient safety education, and risk management services.

Christopher D. Smith, MCIC Vermont president and chief executive officer, has more than 25 years of experience in the medical liability insurance industry beginning at Arthur Andersen, LLP, where he served as a consultant to several large insurance companies. Later at EMCOL, Ltd., he provided consulting services and helped manage several large alternative risk insurance programs.

Gerald Zarlengo, MD, became the chairman/CEO of COPIC Companies in January 2019. Prior to this, he served as a member of COPIC’s Board of Directors and was the founder/partner of Midtown Obstetrics & Gynecology in Denver.

The MPL Association Board of Directors also appointed John H. Mize, CEO of SVMIC, to serve as vice chair and Christine Tomkins, MD, CEO of the Medical Defence Union, to serve as secretary.

“We are gratified to have these leaders offer their extensive expertise and knowledge to the MPL Association,” said MPL Association President and CEO Brian K. Atchinson. “We look forward to working with them as we continue to advance the mission of the organization and its members.”

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PLUS Graduates 100 from Cyber University, Adds to Distance Education Offerings

May 6, 2020 by matray

Last week, more than 100 PLUS members participated in PLUS’s virtual Cyber University.  While the PLUS Cyber University has traditionally been conducted in-person, this year’s virtual education was part of a planned 2020 strategic initiative to provide distance education to a broader audience. Attendance at the event more than doubled this year, proving the demand for PLUS to continue to provide quality education in a virtual space, and especially in light of the current circumstances.

This is the third year of PLUS Cyber University, and registrants attended six live sessions over three days. 

“The program content is incredibly strong, so the focus was on how to take an in-person event and continue to make it meaningful as a virtual one,” said Megan Moore, director of education and professional development at PLUS. Topics included: legal foundations, evolution of cyber coverage, interplay among lines, underwriting, breach responses, 1st and 3rd party claims, risk management, and breech scenarios.

“As we transfer this program to virtual, we made sure to include opportunities for attendees to reflect on what they’ve learned and apply it to their own experience as well as connect with each other outside of the session,” Moore said.

PLUS plans to continue to expand on its distance education offerings.

“Over the last few years, we have been ramping up our ability to provide online and virtual education” said Robbie Thompson, CEO of PLUS. “While PLUS will always offer outstanding in-person networking and education events, we knew that focusing on other ways members can also get professional development was critical to PLUS continuing to serve the professional liability industry.”

PLUS also recently converted most of the sessions for the Healthcare and Medical Professional Liability Symposium to a virtual platform. The in-person Symposium was cancelled due to COVID-19, yet the content has still been successfully viewed by hundreds of individuals. Additionally, PLUS continues to convert its paper based PLUS curriculum modules to Online eLearning modules. With this format, students can work through the module content, complete the exam, and work towards their RPLU Designation all online. The quality content and rigor of the coursework remains, and this format enables people to learn at their own pace.

“The PLUS RPLU Online eLearning modules have been in high demand this year. We can’t get them converted fast enough to keep up with where people are in the curriculum process. The users love them!” said Thompson.


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