Lawmakers move ahead with Nevada medical malpractice changes |

Lawmakers move ahead with Nevada medical malpractice changes

BEN KIECKHEFER, Associated Press

Nevada lawmakers moved ahead Thursday with measures revising state law dealing with medical malpractice awards.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a contentious bill that tightens regulations on insurance companies offering medical malpractice coverage to doctors.

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

Assembly Judiciary endorsed AB320, which 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.

AB320 would require any insurer with a 40 percent market share to inform the state 120 days before leaving the market.

The bill would also require insurers to pay 95 percent of their approved claims within 30 days, or face the prospect of losing their license.

The bill by Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, passed unanimously and now moves to the full Assembly for consideration.

In Senate Judiciary, panel members revised and narrowly approved SB97, which 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.

Judiciary Chairman Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said he realized there were many “uncertainties” in view of the doctors’ petition, which could lead to a public vote next year if lawmakers don’t adopt their plan.

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.”