Medical Malpractice: Myers hopes TV appearance will help restore insurance coverage
Tchula doctor to be on 'Good Morning America' Tuesday

By Bob Darden

Greenwood Commonwealth Newspaper
Greenwood, Mississippi

December 13, 2005

TCHULA - Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr. is hoping that a report scheduled to be aired on ABC's "Good Morning America" Tuesday will help him get his medical malpractice insurance coverage restored by the Medical Assurance Co. of Mississippi.

"It's sad that I don't have medical malpractice insurance. I don't even have a medical malpractice parking ticket," said Myers, 48.

Before Jan. 1, when his medical malpractice policy with the company was still in effect, Myers ran clinics in Tchula, Belzoni, Indianola and Greenville. Today, all the clinics, which served some 3,000 to 4,000 patients, have shut their doors. In 2003, Myers requested coverage for his clinic in Indianola and a fifth one - a pain clinic located in Tupelo - where he began seeing some former patients of Dr. John McFadden, who earlier that year had his state medical license revoked.

"I was sympathetic by seeing those patients one or two days a month. He had thousands of patients. They (MACM) said, 'We're not going to insure you for seeing those patients,'" Myers said.

Rob Jones, an in-house counsel of MACM, said Myers has taken the company to court regarding the issue. As a result of the lawsuit, the company will not respond to specific questions about the case beyond those contained in an official statement issued by Dr. Michael D. Houpt, MACM's chief executive officer. The company's statement said it started providing Myers with malpractice insurance beginning in 1998. Its coverage ended at midnight Jan. 1.

"In 2003, his request for coverage expansion to Indianola and Tupelo triggered inquiry by our Underwriting Review Committee and Risk Management Department. Any physician requesting substantive change in coverage related to previously approved procedures, scope or geography of the practice warrants and undergoes responsible due diligence," the statement said. MACM declined Myers' request for expanded coverage in Tupelo "because our physician-led Risk Management Committee determined the 160-mile distance from his primary area presented too great a risk to assure adequate patient care. Also, concerns existed related to the proposed practice scope and treatment protocols for this location," the statement said. Tupelo, the company noted, is not part of the "medically underserved Delta" that is served by Myers' other clinics.

Myers contends when he refused to let the company review his patient records at all of his clinics, his remaining malpractice coverage was cancelled. "The reason is they wanted to come and look at all my patient records. I said they had to get the patient's permission," he said.

The company contends that its records request was routine. It said Myers began a "venomous public relations campaign against MACM" after it turned down his request for coverage at his Tupelo pain clinic. Myers has held a protest outside MACM's headquarters and protested Dr. J. Edward Hill's elevation to the presidency of the American Medical Association, which is scheduled for June. Hill, a family practitioner in Tupelo, serves on MACM's board of directors.

Myers' refusal to cooperate prevented the company from reviewing the clinics for "safety risks, compliance with appropriate standards of care and proper documentation. From March through September 2004, MACM worked in good faith to coordinate with Dr. Myers and his representatives to schedule meetings to survey the four covered clinics in the Mississippi Delta," the statement said. The company said federal and state privacy laws allow for this type of review.

"From Dec. 1, 2003, to Nov. 30, 2004, MACM conducted 169 clinic surveys for physicians throughout the state. At least 119 of the surveys were requested by MACM management for underwriting and risk evaluation purposes," the statement said.

Myers said there are two sides to the issue of tort reform, which is becoming a major issue nationally. "A funny thing happened on the way to tort reform - premiums are not going down," Myers said.

Specifically, he said MACM has joined forces with the American Tort Reform Association in identifying Hinds, Holmes, Claiborne and Jefferson counties as "judicial hellholes" where medical malpractice cases were rampant. After a review was done, he said, the counties were not that out of line with other counties except that they had larger populations of people living in poverty.

"They never should have been listed as judicial hellholes in the first place," Myers said.

MACM said Myers' relentless negative attacks contributed to his loss of medical malpractice coverage. "First, MACM decided not to renew Dr. Myers' insurance policy because of his continued refusal to comply with routine risk management for the four covered Mississippi Delta clinics. Second, MACM did not renew Dr. Myers' policy because his abusive, defamatory accusations against MACM made continued business with him untenable," the statement said.

Myers said he would like to have his malpractice coverage restored by the company. Under MACM, he paid $8,000 a year for his four clinics. Now if he joined the state-created Mississippi Medical Malpractice Availability Plan, his premiums will rise significantly. Greg Hardy of the state Tort Claims Board, which administers the insurance pool, said that its malpractice premiums generally run about 25 percent higher than those charged by MACM. Myers, however, claims that his increase would be much higher. He said he would pay a minimum of $16,000 for just one clinic - twice what he was paying for all four.

"Those (premiums) are for high-risk physicians. I'm not high-risk. This is a medical malpractice lynching," Myers said.


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