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State now out of med malpractice business

With the sale of the Mississippi Medical Malpractice Availability Plan (MMAP), the State of Mississippi is out of the business of underwriting medical malpractice insurance policies.

Mark Adams, chairman, president and CEO of Austin, Texas-based Advocate MD, said last week that his company’s contract with the state has been finalized, and Advocate MD will begin administering MMAP.

MMAP was created by the Mississippi Legislature in April 2003 to provide medical malpractice insurance to Mississippi physicians. Adams said the services to physicians who were insured by MMAP would remain the same.

Adams said Mississippi became a target for his company because of the sweeping tort reform legislation passed in 2004, Gov. Haley Barbour’s first year in office. Barbour had said during his campaign that tort reform would be one of his priorities if he were elected.

“(Tort reform) allowed us to have a launching pad and to feel comfortable that we could become one of the leading underwriters in the state,” Adams said. “Tort reform was not the only criteria, but it was a primary one.”

“We’re beginning the transition process,” said Greg Hardy, director of the Tort Claims Board. Hardy said records and policy documents are being handed over to Advocate MD. “(MMAP) was always meant to be a temporary plan. The State of Mississippi does not belong and does not want to be in the insurance business. It was always the plan to put it into the private sector. We were basically running a small insurance company.”

One of Advocate MD’s goals, Adams says, is to help the state’s high-risk physicians, doctors who practice medicine in areas of the state where med/mal lawsuits are common.

“The state is always going to need a home for high-risk physicians,” Adams said. “If you lose 25-30 physicians in a place like the Mississippi Delta, you don’t have a medical finance crisis. You have a medical crisis.”

Advocate MD recently became licensed in Mississippi, and Adams praised new Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney, elected last fall, for the efficiency of his staff.

“His leadership was extraordinary,” Adams said.

Now that his company is admitted as a carrier in the state, Adams said Advocate MD understands the difficulty of insuring high-risk physicians, or those who may have had judgments against them as a result of med/mal lawsuits.

“We understand that risk,” Adams said. “We know how to manage it and quantify it. And we can start to move physicians into standard (low-risk) market practices.”

Adams also pitched his company’s reputation in Texas. Advocate MD started operations in 2003.

“We have an outstanding reputation in Texas, which is the second-largest medical market in the country. We named ourselves ‘Advocate’ for a reason. We’ll never do surplus assessments on our physicians. We’re a high-quality underwriter. Our motto is, ‘We serve our physicians.’”

Advocate MD’s expansion into Mississippi marks the beginning, Adams said, of the company strategic expansion plan. He said there are plans to begin the certification process in other states. Right now, the company is only admitted in Texas and Mississippi.

Contact MBJ staff writer Clay Chandler at clay.chandler@ msbusiness.com .

About Clay Chandler

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