The PCF pool has become too shallow, according to the state, and needs to be replenished. The PCF covers “excess liability” not included by individual providers' own coverage, and it was significantly drained last July by the more than $63 million it paid out in 342 cases involving Dr. Mark Weinberger, a Merrillville, Ind., surgeon whose exploits were shown on the “America's Most Wanted” television show.
Leaving his patients behind, Weinberger went to Greece on vacation in 2004 and never returned. He remained a fugitive until he was captured while living in a tent on a mountain in the Italian countryside in 2009.
Last June, 282 of Weinberger's former patients were awarded $55 million in one settlement. In another settlement, 60 former patients split an $11 million payout with $8.25 million coming from the PCF, according to an Indiana State Medical Association report. The ISMA also reported that at least nine cases went to trial, with payouts ranging from $40,000 to $13 million. (Including Weinberger's cases, $112.5 million came out of the PCF last July to cover 409 claims.)
The pool, which had reached nearly $198 million in July 2010, fell to just under $77 million after the Weinberger payouts. It stood at just above $75 million Jan. 15, according to the ISMA. The new rates mean the surcharge will cost Hoosier physicians $2,100 to $23,400, depending on their specialty.
In general, the Indiana malpractice climate has been steady as a result of an agreement reached last August (PDF) between the state and its largest malpractice insurers to decrease rates by an average of 8%. An “improved claims experience” was cited as a factor in making the decrease possible.
According to the ISMA, however, the result of these fluctuations is that “liability insurance payments and surcharges are taking Indiana physicians on a roller coaster ride.”
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks