Tag Archives: Richard Lord

A difficult time: MPL insurers navigate the future

Over the past 10 to 15 years, medical professional liability (MPL) insurers have been fortunate to have enjoyed profitability strong enough to take the edge off the necessity of a deep structural market change. But the time is coming when insurers will have to face the reality. How will MPL insurers compete in a shrinking market and what will their role be? Milliman consultants Richard Lord and Stephen Koca provide some perspective in their article “A difficult time: MPL insurers navigate the future.”

This article was published in the 2016 Third Quarter issue of Inside Medical Liability.

How will Prop 46 and ACA affect medical professional liability?

The medical professional liability (MPL) industry experienced sustained profitability in 2013. Profits are likely to continue over the next several years. There are a few market uncertainties like healthcare reform and California’s Proposition 46 that will test insurers’ current business models though. In this article, Milliman consultants Richard Lord and Stephen Koca explain how these issues may affect the MPL industry moving forward.

This excerpt provides some perspective:

Physician shortage?
The huge influx of insured individuals, which is expected to top 30 million by the time ACA is fully implemented in 2016, could lead to a shortage of physicians, who may turn over some of their duties to nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Lacking the same expertise as a physician, these providers may fail to diagnose or misdiagnose some condition. On the other hand, they may form more personal relations with patients, and that has been shown to reduce the likelihood of a lawsuit.

Under collateral-source payment rules, the ACA may result in lower awards, since the cost of future medical care would no longer be included in awards, thereby limiting MPL insurers’ exposure to the cost to future health insurance payments in an award, or it might have only a negligible impact, depending on how it is administered and the courts’ decisions.

These scenarios are actually less than a handful of the dozens of possibilities that can arise from the ACA. Any one of the ACA’s provisions is unlikely to upend MPL insurers’ cost structure, but in tandem, the layers and layers of issues stated or implied in the ACA could tip costs in a direction that might prove difficult to absorb.

The ACA, however, is only one of the uncertainties facing MPL insurers.

The California question
In November, California voters will decide whether the state’s landmark statute, which caps non-economic MPL damages at $250,000, will remain intact, as written. Enacted nearly 40 years ago, California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA) has withstood a series of constitutional challenges, the last of which was in 1985.

…But MICRA is now being challenged in a ballot proposal [Proposition 46] that would raise the cap on non-economic damages to more than $1 million.

If enacted, the proposal would raise the cap on any claim that is outstanding as of January 1, 2015. MPL insurers and self-insured entities would see their liability increase for any unsettled claim on their books, as well as future claims. In all likelihood, claim severity would increase, but the frequency of claims would almost certainly rise if litigation were viewed as a more attractive means of compensation than it now is.

This development has far-ranging consequences, given the size of the California market, but it could also signal a change in sentiment if other states decide to follow California’s lead—since California has long been a state that’s a bellwether for social and economic change.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 35 states have some type of cap on medical professional awards. How many states might again follow California’s lead and challenge reforms?

These two articles detail the influence that Proposition 46 will have on the future of MPL insurers and healthcare providers:

CA Proposition 46: The end of an era for noneconomic caps?
CA Proposition 46: Undoing tort reform?

Health microinsurance as a component of aid in Pakistan

The Atlantic reported last month about an unconventional aid organization in Pakistan that appears to be overcoming some of the barriers to traditional aid programs:

So while USAID is very good at quickly mobilizing assistance to disaster-afflicted communities, it carries a lot of political baggage — so much so in places like Pakistan that the U.S might be better off in the long run by downsizing USAID’s direct activities there and working through alternative programs.

One good model might be the Rural Support Programmes Network. A sprawling collection of local NGOs, the RSPN was founded by the Agha Khan Network in 1982, and has since become its own, separate program. While the stats about its reach are impressive — reaching millions of the poorest homes across a vast swath of Pakistan — what’s especially fascinating about RSPN are its methods.

Put simply, RSPN has a different focus than normal aid programs. They emphasize the development of institutions first, and only after that institution is established do they worry about its output or performance. The NGO also heavily invests in the smallest scale of the community, from conceptualization to execution, hiring mostly locals to administer projects. Lastly, they have extraordinarily long project timelines — sometimes as long as 15 years from start to finish.

RSPN’s activities might be of interest to readers of this blog because they run a significant health microinsurance program:

But the most interesting project RSPN has done in rural Pakistan is a collaborative micro-healthcare insurance system. For very little money — $3.50 a year in some cases — poor people can get access to basic medical care (especially maternity care) and assistance if they face hospitalization.

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The medmal sweet spot—for now

National Underwriter picks up on the state of the medical professional liability insurance market in a new article by Richard Lord and Stephen Koca. Here is an excerpt:

Medical professional liability insurers are at a sweet spot in their underwriting cycle. For insurers, it’s a place where loss ratios are low, capital is plentiful—and in this case premiums, though under pressure, are only slightly off their peak.

But as any athlete knows, maintaining momentum is a tough proposition, and clear signs of a turn in fortune are already evident. They can be found in the somewhat overlooked corner of insurance known as loss reserves.

Read the full article here to better understand the challenge insurers face in maintaining this momentum.