Doctor loses coverage over pain prescribing

American Medical Association News
PROFESSIONAL ISSUES

A family physician says his insurer is restricting his practice after it refuses to renew his liability policy in a dispute over treating pain patients.

February 16, 2004

By Andis Robeznieks


Being a physician is more than a profession to the Rev. Ronald V. Myers Sr., MD. An ordained Baptist minister (and jazz musician, too), the family physician prefers the job description "medical missionary," and the mission of his Southern Mississippi practice is to provide care to "the poorest of the poor" in the United States.

"I'm their family physician," Dr. Myers said. "I'm also their obstetrician, I'm their gynecologist, their pediatrician, their minister, their pastor and I'm their advocate."

But when some patients started calling him their "pain doctor," his insurer, the Medical Assurance Co. of Mississippi, objected. First it refused to extend his medical liability coverage to a new clinic in Tupelo, Miss., where he planned to take over the patients of a physician whose license is in abeyance. Then it decided not to renew his policy for his four other clinics when it expires April 1.

According to the Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure, Dr. Myers, 47, has never been sued for malpractice, and he has a license to practice with no limitations.

Mississippi has a reputation for being a highly litigious state, so Michael D. Houpt, MACM's chief executive officer, makes no apologies for being very careful about whom his company will cover. He acknowledged that the company has "rigid guidelines" for underwriting, but then added, "That's why we're still in business."

But Dr. Myers thinks there is more going on than just a conservative business approach. He said MACM is deciding for him which patients he can see.

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