New Year, Same, uh, Stuff
Okay, I'm back. Wasn't really actually gone, but at least I'm blogging again. And why not lead off the year with an issue that took up a lot of my time last year?
An article in the New Year's Day issue of the Belleville News-Democrat reports that while the past five years were tough on Illinois doctors, they were pretty good for top executives of the state's leading provider of medical malpractice insurance.
Now before you start screaming that this is some type of trial lawyer propoganda, you should know that these comments were made by...the former president of the Illinois State Medical Society.
According to Dr. Arvind Goyal, the nonprofit ISMIE Mutual Insurance Co. -- an offshoot of the state medical society that insures 60 percent of Illinois physicians was raising premium costs by 120 percent in some cases, was doling out big perks to ISMIE executives since the late 1990s.What is interesting about the timing of these revelations is that a decision is due soon from the Illinois Department of Insurance regarding yet another proposed rate increase by the folks at ISMIE.
ISMIE perks to executives included:
• Big pay raises, including one that boosted CEO Alexander Lerner's 2004 yearly salary to nearly $1 million, the firm's annual reports show.
• Low-interest mortgage loans, including a $995,000 loan on Lerner's 4,800-square-foot home in Glencoe, a wealthy Chicago suburb, Cook County property records show.
• Nearly $5 million in deferred compensation to Dr. Don Udstuen, a top lobbyist who pleaded guilty to taking part in a kickback scheme connected in testimony to former Gov. George Ryan.
ISMIE's own records show that even as its leaders were asserting market conditions had forced them to raise premium rates, ISMIE was spending large sums on political campaigns, executive loans and big-ticket salaries.
The docs did a stellar job of convincing the general public that the rate increases were the fault of a broken legal system, and in turn, convinced the Legislature and the Governor that stripping away the fundamental underpinning of the jury system by capping awards was the only real solution to the rate increases.
It will be interesting to see if they are as effective in convincing a group of people that are actually paying attention to all of the facts.