Dividends or subsidies for Nevada doctors?

RENO -- The state Board of Medical Examiners has built up a $3.35 million surplus and wants to use $1 million of the money for dividends to about 5,000 Nevada doctors.

But state Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, wants to use $2 million of the reserve to subsidize doctors hit with high medical malpractice insurance premium increases.

The medical examiners board voted unanimously Friday to reduce the biennial dues paid by physicians from $600 to $400. The panel also agreed to eliminate a $200 biennial fee charged for applications by doctors to oversee physician assistants and advanced nurse practitioners.

"It's time to pay a dividend," said Dr. Paul Stewart of Las Vegas who serves as secretary-treasurer of the board.

Larry Lessly, executive director of the board that licenses and regulates physicians, has increased its surplus since it raised its biennial registration to $600 in 1996. He also said the balance grew partly because of investments.

O'Connell wants to take $2 million from the reserve to set up a fund to help physicians who have difficulty in paying their rising medical malpractice insurance.

At last count, she said 150 doctors have either left Nevada or quit their practice because of the malpractice crisis.

Her bill would require the physicians to pay a one-time $200 to augment the $2 million for subsidies for doctors "who have extreme difficulty" in paying the premiums. The subsidy fund would expire in 2005.


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