Another Nevada medical malpractice bill OK’d on deadline |

Another Nevada medical malpractice bill OK’d on deadline

BRENDAN RILEY, Associated Press

A state Senate committee voted on deadline Friday for a plan to ensure doctors are disciplined when hit with medical malpractice court judgments.

Commerce and Labor voted for SB250, requiring the state Board of Medical Examiners to impose sanctions if it finds a doctor failed to act properly.

Commerce and Labor Chairman Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said there were related measures that died because they weren’t approved by Friday’s deadline for committee action — but elements of those bills will be amended later into SB250.

Townsend said those elements will include part of a now-dead bill to set up a subsidy for doctors to pay their medical malpractice insurance. That’s “definitely” going into SB250, he added.

The measures stem from a medical malpractice crisis that caused doctors’ insurance costs to skyrocket.

The committee had been told there’s already an investigatory process when the board learns of a malpractice judgment. But Townsend said the board has too much leeway and he wanted the law to read that the board “shall” punish when it finds malpractice.

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The measure also requires a performance audit of the medical examiners board to determine if it is efficient in conducting its investigations and how it uses its money.

The action by Commerce and Labor follows votes Thursday on other bills revising state law dealing with medical malpractice awards.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved AB320, which tightens regulations on insurance companies offering medical malpractice coverage to doctors.

AB320 says the Nevada insurance commissioner won’t approve premium increases for doctors’ malpractice insurance if the rates were designed to make up for a company’s losses in financial markets, or because the insurer lost money by pressing ahead with lawsuits that could have been settled out of court.

Companies couldn’t cancel or refuse to renew insurance for a doctor if the insurer had the chance to settle for an amount equal to or less than the coverage limit under the doctor’s policy, but refused.

The measure also would require insurers with a majority of the market share to provide notice to the state four months before withdrawing coverage.

The early notice provision is a response to St. Paul Companies — which had 60 percent of the medical malpractice insurance market in Nevada — abruptly pulling out of the state.

Senate Judiciary voted 4-3 Thursday for an amended version of SB97 which, in its original form, had been endorsed by doctors facing spiraling malpractice insurance policy costs. As revised, the bill was challenged by the doctors.

SB97 started out as a plan by Keep Our Doctors in Nevada. The group turned in signatures of 95,000 Nevadans in support of the proposal.

Dr. Rudy Manthei of Keep Our Doctors in Nevada said the amended bill will do nothing to lower doctors’ malpractice insurance premiums or foster a competitive insurance market in the state.

But Manthei said his group would continue working in the remaining weeks of the 2003 session to get a bill “that will work for Nevadans.”