ProAssurance Corporation Investors File Class Action Lawsuit to Recover Investment Losses
June 17, 2020
The Portnoy Law Firm published a press release today advising investors that a class action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of ProAssurance Corporation investors that acquired ProAssurance securities between April 26, 2019 and May 7, 2020, inclusive (the “Class Period”).
The complaint filed in this lawsuit alleges that:
• During the Class Period, ProAssurance misrepresented its underwriting and reserve standards, and failed to adequately reserve for losses. Specifically, ProAssurance made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (i) ProAssurance lacked adequate underwriting process and risk management controls necessary to set appropriate loss reserves in its Specialty P&C segment; (ii) ProAssurance failed to properly assess a large national healthcare account that experienced losses far exceeding the assumptions made when the account was underwritten; and (iii) as a result, ProAssurance was subject to a materially heightened risk of financial loss and reserve charges.
• On Jan. 22, 2020, ProAssurance announced that because of a deteriorating loss experience related primarily to one large healthcare account underwritten in 2016, it was estimating a $37 million adverse development in its Specialty P&C loss reserves for the fourth quarter of 2019. Additionally, ProAssurance stated that since mid-2019 it had been executing a “comprehensive underwriting strategy in response to emerging trends and changing conditions in healthcare professional liability.” In response to these disclosures, ProAssurance’s stock price fell $4.18 per share, or 11%, to close at $33.40 per share on Jan. 23, 2020.
• On Feb. 20, 2020, ProAssurance announced its 2019 fourth quarter and full year results. ProAssurance revealed that the adverse development from this one large national healthcare account was actually $51.5 million.
• Then, on May 8, 2020, ProAssurance announced that the large healthcare client would likely not renew its policy and instead would likely exercise an option for tail coverage that would result in an additional $50 million in losses in the second quarter of 2020. This loss, when combined with the $51.5 adverse development, meant that ProAssurance would suffer more than $100 million in losses from a single account. In response to these disclosures, ProAssurance’s stock price fell $4.38 per share, or 22%, to close at $15.95 per share on May 8, 2020.
Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund Waives Premiums for Next Fiscal Year
June 17, 2020
The Board of Governors for the Wisconsin Injured Patients & Families Compensation Fund today voted to waive premiums for the next fiscal year for the healthcare professionals and providers enrolled in the fund.
The premium holiday was originally requested by the Wisconsin Medical Society and endorsed by the Fund’s Actuarial and Underwriting and Finance/Investment/Audit committees before it was approved by the Board. The holiday will be in effect from July 1, 2020, until June 30, 2021.
“COVID-19 has posed unprecedented health and economic challenges to our state, and the healthcare industry is no exception,” said Bud Chumbley, MD, a Board member and the CEO of the Wisconsin Medical Society. “The premium holiday approved today by the Board will provide some financial relief to many of the Wisconsin medical professionals and providers who have been affected by the pandemic and who face ongoing challenges."
The mission of the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund is to provide excess medical malpractice coverage to Wisconsin healthcare providers and to ensure that funds are available to compensate injured patients. Healthcare providers obtain primary medical malpractice insurance from private insurance companies in an amount required by statute. Physicians, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists who primarily practice in Wisconsin and many types of healthcare facilities are required to participate in the Fund.
The Fund was created in 1975 to provide excess medical malpractice insurance for Wisconsin healthcare providers. It is governed by a 13-member Board of Governors that is chaired by the Commissioner of Insurance and administered by the Office of Commissioner of Insurance. The Board is composed of four public members appointed by the Governor, three insurance industry representatives, a member named by the Wisconsin Association for Justice, a member named by the State Bar of Wisconsin, two members named by the Wisconsin Medical Society, and a member named by the Wisconsin Hospital Association.
As of June 30, 2019, there were a total of 17,261 Fund participants composed of 147 hospitals with 19 affiliated nursing homes, 15,003 physicians, 855 nurse anesthetists, 20 hospital-owned or controlled entities, 73 ambulatory surgery centers, 1 cooperative, 14 partnerships, and 1,129 corporations actively participating in the Fund. As of June 30, 2019, Fund participants consisted of 87 percent physicians, 6 percent corporations, and the remaining 7 percent included all other participants.
For more information, visit the Fund website at https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/Funds/IPFCFOverview.aspx.
Arkansas Governor Hutchinson Issues Executive Order on Medical Immunity
June 17, 2020
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued an executive order that protects healthcare providers from liability.
“I want to thank the General Assembly for its leadership in securing support for limited immunity legislation and for requesting action by the executive order versus calling a special session during the pandemic.” Governor Hutchinson said. "I also want to thank Steuart Walton and the Economic Recovery Task Force for their work on these important issues."
Executive Order 20-34 regarding immunity for healthcare providers orders that:
• Healthcare workers and providers are authorized to use crisis standards of care to respond to treat COVID-19 patients.
• The healthcare providers as emergency workers are immune from civil liability.
• Immunity does not extend to willful, reckless or intentional misconduct.
• Immunity is effective from today until the emergency is terminated.
Executive Order 20-34 can be viewed HERE.
AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Members of MedPro Group
June 16, 2020
AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of A++ (Superior) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings of “aa+” of the members of MedPro Group (MedPro). These Credit Ratings (ratings) apply to The Medical Protective Company (Fort Wayne, IN) and its affiliates: Princeton Insurance Company (Princeton, NJ); PLICO, Inc. (Oklahoma City, OK); Wellfleet Insurance Company (Fort Wayne, IN); and Wellfleet New York Insurance Company (Flushing, NY); as well as MedPro’s two reinsured affiliates, MedPro RRG Risk Retention Group and AttPro RRG Reciprocal Risk Retention Group (both domiciled in the District of Columbia). The outlook of these ratings remains stable.
The ratings reflect MedPro’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as strongest, as well as its strong operating performance, favorable business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.
The ratings also acknowledge MedPro’s strongest risk-adjusted capitalization, long-term profitable operating performance and the leading market position it maintains in the medical professional liability (MPL) sector. Additionally, the ratings consider the group’s substantial distribution capabilities, prudent claims-handling philosophy and culture of maintaining a margin of safety. Furthermore, the ratings benefit from the explicit and implicit financial support provided by its affiliate, National Indemnity Company, and MedPro’s ultimate parent, Berkshire Hathaway Inc. [NYSE: BRK A and BRK B], which includes reinsurance programs, investment opportunities and capital support.
Partially offsetting these positive rating factors are the inherent challenges associated with being a predominately monoline MPL insurer, particularly as they relate to price competition, changing market dynamics, potential changes in legislation (i.e., tort reform), increasing loss cost trends and regulatory risk. At the same time, AM Best recognizes the organization’s strong management team, broad premium base and jurisdictional diversity, which have resulted in MedPro outperforming its peers over the longer term.
In 2020, the group has experienced balance sheet volatility due to equity market devaluations related to COVID-19. The group’s large allocation in common stocks exposes them to significant volatility. However, the group is well-positioned to accept this risk due to their low underwriting leverage and the investment managers’ historical trend of success in volatile markets. AM Best also conducted stress tests on the group’s risk-adjusted capitalization, which incorporate multiple assumptions related to the market impact of COVID-19. MedPro performed well under all stressed scenarios, and management believes the impact of COVID-19 will be manageable.
Downward rating pressure may result from a material decrease in risk-adjusted capitalization. Downward rating pressure also may result should the group’s relationship with Berkshire Hathaway Inc. or National Indemnity Company change, which also would result in a diminution of the business profile.
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Appoints Austin Elkin Senior Care Leader, Healthcare Professional Liability, U.S.
June 15, 2020
Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance announced that it has promoted Austin Elkin to senior care leader, Healthcare Professional Liability in the U.S. Austin takes over the role from Mary Nolan, who is currently overseeing the launch of BHSI’s new Senior Care Primary Auto offering, but will retire in September following a 30-year career.
“Austin has played a key role in establishing and expanding our healthcare and senior care portfolio, while simultaneously building our loyal customer base. We are excited to elevate him to a leadership role on our growing team,” said Leo Carroll, head of U.S. Healthcare, BHSI. “Many thanks to Mary for her numerous contributions to BHSI and to the healthcare industry. Mary has certainly left her mark, and we wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
Elkin joined BHSI in 2013 as senior underwriter, Healthcare Professional Liability. He previously served as a large account underwriter on the Healthcare team at Zurich Insurance Group. Elkin will continue to be based in BHSI’s office in Atlanta and can be reached at (770) 625-2513 or email@example.com.
TDC Offering Risk Management Lessons to Medical, Dental Practice Managers
June 10, 2020
Now is a critical time for practice managers to develop an in-depth awareness of current risks — as new threats have emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. To help practices prevent injuries, claims or financial penalties for noncompliance, The Doctors Company is now offering an unique training program, “Risk Management Fundamentals for the Practice Manager.”
The complimentary program is available exclusively to practice managers employed by members of The Doctors Company. The lessons apply to all practice managers: clinical and non-clinical, those new to the job and those with years of experience.
“As practice managers, we learn on the job, but most of us have not had the opportunity to attend any formal risk management training,” said Rose Guadan, practice manager for Faceology in Newport Beach, Calif. “Since completing the Fundamentals program, I have been able to do a more confident job of training my team members regarding best practices for daily tasks.”
Upon completion of the 15 self-paced, on-demand lessons, a practice manager will have expertise in:
• Identifying the most common risks or exposures in the practice and strategies that can mitigate them.
• Self-assessing the practice to determine what strategies are currently in place and what strategies should be implemented.
• Planning the appropriate steps to implement new or improved strategies that can eliminate or reduce the identified risks or exposures.
• Each lesson features original content developed by experts from The Doctors Company, and reflects company’s mission to protect the practice of good medicine.
“We are proud to offer this training program to help practice managers so that they can help others, particularly in this time of great need,” said Kerin Torpey Bashaw, MPH, BSN, RN, senior vice president of patient safety and risk management for The Doctors Company. “As business closure restrictions are eased and practice managers return to their important roles, these lessons provide them an opportunity to refresh their skills as they face new challenges and risks.”
MPL Association: Federal Legislation Would Mean Critical Liability Protections for Healthcare Professionals during COVID-19 National Emergency
June 1, 2020
Editor’s note: the Medical Professional Liability Association (MPL Association) president and CEO Brian K. Atchinson issued the following statement about the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act (H.R. 7059), legislation to provide limited liability protections to health professionals and facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak that was introduced by Representatives Phil Roe, MD, and Lou Correa:
“With many states focusing on reopening, the situation for America’s medical community remains far from business as usual. Unfortunately, healthcare professionals will continue to face many threats in the coming months and even years, including the specter of medical liability lawsuits stemming from care already provided and health services that will be performed as restrictions ease.
We commend Representative Roe and Representative Correa for introducing the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, bipartisan legislation that would provide narrowly tailored civil liability protection for healthcare professionals and facilities during the COVID-19 national public health emergency and for a limited time period afterward. This bill would help protect the very healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly on the front lines of this health catastrophe to save countless lives at great personal risk.
The MPL Association will continue to build bipartisan support in Congress in order to pave a path forward for the enactment of this measure.”
California Expands Order for Medical Malpractice Insurance Companies to Partially Refund Premiums Amid ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic
May 18, 2020
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.
Elizabeth Leedom, Margaret Byrnes Named Recipients of the 2020 MPL Industry Defender Award
May 13, 2020
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.”
Two Houston Medical Malpractice Plaintiff Law Firms Reject Coronavirus Lawsuits
May 12, 2020
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.”