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State Filings Show Insurance Tomfoolery?

April 1, 2008

Chicago, IL - The numbers are in, and profits are pretty. Papers filed with the Illinois Division of Insurance state that the largest medical malpractice insurance company in Illinois, the Illinois State Medical Insurance Exchange, is collecting more than $100 million more than it pays out for claims or defense costs. It's a complete turnaround from 2005, when some insurance companies that supported caps on malpractice lawsuits said they were close to going bankrupt, and as a result legislators passed a law limiting victim compensation.

Illinois Trial Lawyers Association president Bruce Kohen says he has seen malpractice insurance company profits that have more than doubled over the past few years, which makes it look like someone is playing the fool on this April 1st.

"There's clear evidence that arbitrary and excessive insurance premiums are not only taking advantage of patients in Illinois, but the doctors themselves."

The Illinois malpractice caps law has since been ruled unconstitutional, but insurance companies say caps are still needed and that profits are used as reserves to cover any future claims. While the state's largest insurer says profits this past year dropped, Kohen points out that the "drop" is from $50 million to $40 million.

"Our Constitution does not allow those who have been most seriously injured as a result of medical negligence to have their rights taken away in order to give bonuses to insurance companies."

The Illinois State Supreme Court will be next to take up the issue of whether lawsuit caps are constitutional. Kohen says he expects that the rights of Illinois residents will be upheld.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IL