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Liability premiums stay stable, but insurers warn this might not last

For the fourth straight year, medical liability insurance premiums have eased nationwide. That's according to the annual Medical Liability Monitor survey, which showed 94% of premiums holding steady or dropping in 2009. Fifty-eight percent of premiums had no change, up from 50% in 2008. Another 36% of premiums fell, down from 43% last year. While those figures are encouraging, physicians and insurance executives say premiums still must shrink from sky-high levels. Insurers expect improvements to continue into next year but are cautious of some potentially unfavorable trends suggesting that results could be short-lived. "It does ease the pain, but the pain is still there because rates are still dramatically higher" than they were before rising in the early 2000s, said Robert D. Francis, chief operating officer of The Doctors Company, a Napa, Calif., physician-owned liability insurer that participated in the survey. Meanwhile, jury awards are climbing steadily, counteracting ...

Physicians sue again to safeguard Pennsylvania's liability fund

Pennsylvania physicians have filed yet another lawsuit in an effort to preserve what's left of the state's medical liability insurance fund after the governor in October approved a $100 million withdrawal to balance the state's budget. Doctors and other health care professionals contribute annually to Mcare, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund, which was authorized under a 2002 tort reform package. State physicians are required to carry $1 million in liability insurance, but the fund subsidizes half of their premiums. Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers have said they plan to use what they contend is excess money in the Mcare pool to fund health care expansions and other budgetary needs. But physicians said the additional funds were meant to cover liability claims still pending in the courts. Those outstanding claims will cost an estimated $1.7 billion, according to the lawsuit filed Oct. 12 by the Pennsylvania Medical Society and state hospitals. Any mon ...

FTC investigating CVS Caremark business practices

The Federal Trade Commission is examining the business dealings of CVS Caremark after getting complaints from several congressmen, pharmacists and patients. At the heart of the complaints is the 2007 merger between CVS and the pharmacy benefit manager Caremark. Critics say the merger may have resulted in a conflict of interest. The FTC was asked to investigate claims that the Caremark branch of the business was making it hard for its members to buy prescription drugs from non-CVS pharmacies. In a statement e-mailed to American Medical News, CVS Caremark acknowledged that it was being investigated but refuted the claims. "The company is not able to predict with certainty the timing, outcome or consequence of the investigation," wrote spokeswoman Carolyn Castel. "However, it remains confident that its business practices and service offerings (which are designed to reduce health care costs and expand consumer choice) are being conducted in compliance with the antitrust laws." ...