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Insurer vows to cut rates if bill passes

By Associated Press
Published June 2, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Florida's largest malpractice insurance company is pledging that it will lower rates by 20 percent on average if a bill proposed by Gov. Jeb Bush to cap awards in malpractice lawsuits passes intact.

In a letter set to be delivered today to Bush, First Professionals Insurance Co. says that if legislators pass Bush's plan in a special session later this month, it could lower rates by Oct. 1, as called for in the plan.

Bush called the special session and made his proposal because doctors have been complaining that rapidly increasing insurance rates are driving them out of business.

"The governor has put forth a plan that has a great deal of actuarial soundness," company vice president Bob White said.

The governor's proposal would put a $250,000 cap on the amount victims could win in noneconomic damages, such as compensation for the death of a loved one or for pain and suffering. Economic damages, such as lost wages and medical expenses, wouldn't be limited.

White said the insurance rate reduction should happen "as long as the provisions stay intact."

Lawyers who represent malpractice victims said the company's pledge means little because FPIC could decrease rates for low-risk specialties and continue doing little for doctors with high-risk practices.

"They're not pledging for the ob-gyns, the neurosurgeons, to reduce their rates; they're saying on average," said Neal Roth, a plaintiff's attorney. "So they'll go to the lower-risk specialties, and the other people are going to get stuck."

Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said Sunday that she could not comment on the letter until it's received.

[Last modified June 2, 2003, 02:15:00]

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