The sale of Utah’s largest medical malpractice insurer to a company in Minnesota has created a business opportunity for local brokerage firm MGIS Companies, Inc.
Headquartered in Salt Lake City, MGIS has sold long term disability coverage to doctors for 43 years. Recently the underwriter broke into the medical malpractice arena and, starting in October, it will sell Freedom Specialty Insurance Company’s liability policies to Utah physicians.
Convincing Freedom Speciality to come to Utah wasn’t easy, said MGIS President Jeffrey Brunken.
Utah Medical Insurance Association (UMIA), which claimed over half of the state’s malpractice market when it merged this summer with Minnesota-based Midwest Medical Insurance Company (MMIC), was losing money, said Brunken.
"You lose money in this business by selling to everyone," he said.
MGIS has a different strategy: cherry-pick doctors with spotless histories and woo them with steep discounts.
"We have the same product, the same defense panel [of attorneys], same risk management and same coverage [as UMIA]," said Brunken. "The difference is we’re coming in at a lower price, and not irresponsibly. We’re going to cover the best doctors."
Headquartered in Salt Lake since 1997, MGIS underwrites the policies of large national carriers. Its disability policies are backed by Sun Life Financial and its medical liability plans are backed by A+ rated insurance giant Nationwide.
The trick will be convincing doctors to depart from what they know, Brunken admits.
UMIA was formed by a group of Utah doctors in the ‘70s when affordable malpractice coverage was scarce and medical associations across the country stepped up to answer the demand. Its acquisition by MMIC, also physician-owned, meant a windfall for policyholders.
But today’s "soft market" opens the field to more competition.
"The doctors now don’t sense that anything is broken," acknowledged Brunken. "But they’re about to find out that they can get much stronger coverage for 30 percent less. At that point they realize it’s broken."
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