PARKERSBURG - With a new year comes a changing of the guard for West Virginia's largest medical malpractice insurance company.
"We had a change in leadership," said Dr. R. Austin Wallace, who has taken over as president and chief executive officer of West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company. "It's been a very great transition."
Wallace took over the top positions at the beginning of the year after David Rader, who led the company since its inception in 2004, retired at the end of December.
Photo by Jolene Craig
Dr. R. Austin Wallace is the new president and chief executive officer of West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company.
Wallace has been on West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company's board of directors from the beginning, first as vice chairman from 2004 to 2009 and then as chairman from 2009 through present.
"It's an honor for me to take this position for the company that has done so much to stabilize the malpractice insurance market in West Virginia," Wallace said.
The company, which covers about 1,435 doctors roughly 60 percent of the physicians in West Virginia that purchase private malpractice insurance began insuring doctors July 1, 2004 as the only nonprofit, member-owned medical liability insurance company in the state.
A new year means a change in leadership for West Virginia's largest medical malpractice insurance company.
Dr. R. Austin Wallace is the new chief executive officer and president of the state's only nonprofit company with the retirement of David Rader at the end of 2011.
Wallace has been the company's chairman since 2009 and served as vice chairman from the company's inception in 2004 to 2009.
"Things are much, much, much better now than they used to be," Wallace said. "When St. Paul (the former malpractice insurance writer) left the medical malpractice field, it left about 1,450 doctors in West Virginia high and dry.
"In those difficult times, many doctors were leaving the state," he added.
When that occurred the state took over the physicians' insurance and in 2003 the state Legislature passed medical liability reforms to aid physicians.
"Those laws have been very effective in relieving frivolous lawsuits in medical malpractice," Wallace said.
Mutual Insurance plays an active role in underwriting, risk management and claims while board members provide medical liability coverage.
"A decade ago, West Virginia was the worst state for malpractice insurance and physicians were leaving," Wallace said. "Now, West Virginia is attracting physicians and the Mutual has played a key role in that turnaround."
Wallace said that since its inception, the company has seen an up to 50 percent reduction in malpractice insurance premiums and has seen growing success.
"In 2009, West Virginia was named the ninth best state to practice medicine," he said. "That is a strong testament to our success."
Wallace said one of the company's main strengths is risk management.
"Risk management is one of our main factors and has been instrumental in our success," he said. "Because of all of these changes, the public health of West Virginia has improved."
West Virginia Mutual Insurance Company is a member of the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), an association of physician-led professional medical liability companies. The PIAA member companies insure more than 60 percent of the country's physicians that purchase commercial malpractice insurance, hence representing the majority of the Medical Professional Liability Market.
The company was designed to be owned by the physicians it serves and run by physicians. The company provides its physicians with continuing education through more than 50 seminars and 250 office visits each year.
"This company is a partnership between its physician-owners and the health care delivery system," Wallace said. "Our mission is to improve public health in West Virginia by providing affordable malpractice insurance, thereby keeping doctors in the state, and encouraging the best practices among physicians through our robust risk management program.
"We continue to look for more ways to improve what we do. Doctors need to concentrate on their patients, not on whether their insurance company will stay around, as was the case a decade ago," he said.
While leading West Virginia Mutual will be his main responsibility, Wallace, who is an otolaryngologist, will continue to serve as a practicing physician on a limited, part-time basis.