Connecticut obstetrician-gynecologists scrap plan of raising fees

The practice had wanted to charge $500 extra. Instead, almost every insurer agreed to pay them higher reimbursements for pregnancy care.

By Damon Adams — Posted Sept. 20, 2004

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A practice of 150 obstetrician-gynecologists in Connecticut has scrapped plans to charge an extra $500 per pregnancy to help cover rising medical liability premiums.

The group, Women's Health Connecticut, wanted to force a legislative solution to Connecticut's liability woes and vowed to scuttle the fee if lawmakers passed tort reform. No reforms were passed.

But the group has abandoned the $500 surcharge, which it planned to levy starting Sept. 1, because health insurers instead agreed to raise doctors' reimbursements. Almost every insurer agreed to pay higher reimbursements for pregnancy care, some by $500 or more a case, officials said.

"The payers, for the most part, have been accommodating. While no one rolled over and played dead, they were sympathetic," said Nancy Bernstein, president and CEO of Avon, Conn.-based Women's Health Connecticut, whose doctors account for 30% of the state's ob-gyns.

In mid-May, Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland vetoed tort reform passed by the state Legislature. Physician groups supported the veto because the bill did not contain a cap on noneconomic damages.

Within days of the veto, Women's Health Connecticut announced its plan to add a $500 liability surcharge per pregnancy beginning Sept. 1. The group pays $98,750 a year in premiums per doctor and expected that figure to rise to about $120,000, Bernstein said. The group, which delivers 12,000 babies a year, figured a $500 surcharge would generate $6 million to use toward premiums.

Other groups are exploring whether liability surcharges are legal. The AMA plans to look into legal questions and develop guidelines on the issue.

Although the Connecticut group's surcharge is scrapped, Bernstein said some woman still could pay out of pocket for care if they were not insured. She said the group hopes for future tort reform.

"We wanted reform and we're still going to work for it, because we think these premiums will continue to go up," she said. "Otherwise, we're going to be looking every year for more money."

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