Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Just when I thought I could get away from West Virginia malpractice posts this gets served up in the Charleston Daily Mail:Award-winning physician faces insurance problems
Dr. James Blume was the first West Virginian and the first osteopathic physician in the United States to win the National Country Doctor of the Year award, in 2002.

Gov. Bob Wise has named the rural Summers County physician a Distinguished West Virginian.

And, board certified in family medicine, Blume last year received the Off-Campus Teaching Award from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine.

Despite his accolades, Blume can't get medical malpractice insurance from the new West Virginia Physicians' Mutual Company formed by legislators to help state doctors find coverage.
Apparently Dr. Blume has fallen through the cracks of liability insurance despite the promise the physicians mutual once held:
Blume said the new physicians-owned company isn't doing what legislators said it would.

"Physicians in particular and citizens of the state in general have been sorely misled, as demonstrated by the recent turn of events in my career," he wrote in an open letter dated Monday.

The mutual's CEO, David Rader, said the company's underwriting criteria have been approved by the state Insurance Commission. Because of a capacity problem, it's not possible to accept all physicians who apply for coverage, he said.

For instance, about 1,400 physicians transferred from the state Board of Risk and Insurance Management to the mutual July 1. Another 100 physicians have applied and about half of those have been accepted.
"There have been a few declinations, 15 percent to 20 percent," Rader said
Remember, this is an insurance company that obtained its operating capital from an $1000 assessment from all licensed physicians in West Virginia. The contributors did not receive any shares in the mutual company for their $1000. On the other hand, by law, a physician who did not pay the assessment was subjected to suspension of their license. If they wanted to regain their license they were required to pay the assessment and an additional $250 fine. While the money may or may not be significant, the fact that your license was suspended is. You would then be subject to the dreaded "please provide additional information" instructions on any number of forms.
My philosophy is that businesses should be free, within the law, to associate with whomever they please. But this physician was, in effect, extorted by the State of West Virginia and the West Virginia Board of Medicine, to benefit this company who won't even provide him insurance. If he was a menace to patients that is one thing, but a physician with three suits that he won certainly does not fit that description.
The mutual insurance company isn't living up to expectations in this case:
In his July 1 address in kicking off the mutual, (West Virginia Governor Bob ) Wise said the state must "guarantee . . . that every West Virginia doctor has access to reasonably priced medical malpractice insurance."

I wonder if Dr. Blume will get his $1000 back?
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