McKinney Says Address Medical Malpractice Rates

The high cost of medical malpractice insurance is the main factor in rising health care costs, according to Dr. Doug McKinney, chairman of the West Virginia Republican Party.

McKinney, a Bridgeport, W.Va., urologist, served as president of the West Virginia Medical Association in 2003 when a physician-run medical malpractice insurance company was established in the state.

He said he didn’t send in his dues to the American Medical Association this year because of its support for health care reforms currently before Congress. He thinks the federal government should instead look to West Virginia’s effort as it crafts health care reform legislation.

“I think this massive bill totally ignores medical malpractice reform,” McKinney said. “Until they get that, they’re just kidding themselves. They can’t decrease health care costs until they decrease the cost of medical fees.

“And here is evidence that lowering the pain and suffering expense on medical malpractice will lower doctors premiums. We have the evidence in West Virginia.”

In 2003, West Virginia lawmakers passed legislation that established a physician-run Medical Mutual cooperative in the state, also providing $25 million in seed money for the venture, according to McKinney. At that time, the Legislature also set caps on medical pain and suffering awards in the state.

As a result, the number of malpractice lawsuits in the state is down 60 percent, while health care insurance premiums subsequently decreased by 40 percent, McKinney said.

He also noted that Medical Mutual has paid off the $25 million loaned by the state and has about $100 million in escrow.

“They allowed us to form our own Medical Mutual, and it has been largely successful,” McKinney said. “Our senators (U.S. Sens. Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller, both D-W.Va.) and two of our congressmen (U.S. Reps. Alan Mollohan and Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va.) not only ignore this, they deny it.”

McKinney also has concerns about one aspect of proposed health care reform that would establish a government-run public health insurance option.