Tort reform leads to better ranking for Illinois medical liability insurer

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted June 15, 2009

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Citing tort reform, a national credit rating organization in May upgraded its ranking of the financial strength of Illinois' largest medical liability insurer.

But the "precarious status" of Illinois' reforms -- declared unconstitutional by a trial court in 2007 and on appeal before the state Supreme Court -- still poses risks to ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co.'s financial health, according to A.M. Best Co., which specializes in insurance and health care industry assessments.

In a statement, ISMIE Mutual Chair Harold L. Jensen, MD, said the rating upgrade affirms that the 2005 reforms -- which center on a $500,000 noneconomic damage cap -- have helped stabilize the medical liability insurance market, temper excessive jury verdicts and keep doctors in practice. Those improvements could disappear, however, if the Illinois Supreme Court overturns the reforms, he said.

The state high court heard oral arguments in the case in November 2008. A decision is pending.

"Now Illinois is at a crossroads of recovery," Dr. Jensen said. "Either way, patient care is riding precariously on the line."

Note: This item originally appeared at

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