Insurer Covers Malpractice in Overseas Care

By Staff Report

Sep. 28, 2007

A company offering a new type of liability insurance is hoping to cajole employers into moving a step closer to sending employees overseas for medical care.

Provided by the newly formed, Barbados-based AOS Assurance Co., the patient medical malpractice insurance is intended to resolve the question of what happens when modern medical care promised by a developing country lands patients in a byzantine legal system. Patients who find themselves injured by a doctor in a foreign country may have little legal recourse abroad. The malpractice insurance is intended to provide some financial compensation for their injuries, says Paul Laverty, an AOS director.

The insurance costs 76 cents to $8.15 per member monthly and pays a maximum of $100,000 to $1 million per covered person. Employers can offer it to employees directly or through the company’s health insurer.

“I like to think of our coverage as travel insurance,” Laverty says. “You wouldn’t go out of the country without travel insurance. You shouldn’t travel overseas for medical care without our product.”

Though a handful of hospitals in India, Singapore and Thailand meet international standards for quality and safety, large employers have not yet sent employees overseas for medical care. Laverty says executives are concerned that if something goes wrong, employees would have little legal recourse in foreign countries and could expose employers to civil lawsuits.

“An employer is interested in cost savings,” Laverty says. “Our piece is filling the gap of the litigation component. It would help the employer mitigate their own risk.”

The product, which is being managed by insurance services company AIG, has been available for about a month. Laverty says a number of large health insurers and employers have expressed interest.

It’s doubtful that medical malpractice overseas would subject employers to legal liability, since employers are not usually sued for medical malpractice in the United States, says Tiffany Santos, an attorney with Trucker Huss, a San Francisco firm specializing in employee benefits law.

If anything, says David Frazzini, a principal at Mercer’s health and benefits business, the insurance is an incentive offered by employers looking for employees to voluntarily seek medical care overseas. The insurance doesn’t replace the rights of patients who get care in the United States. He said the insurance could be of interest to companies looking “to dip [their] toes in the water.”

The insurance would only be valid if a patient sought medical care from a board-certified physician practicing at a medical facility accredited by the Joint Commission International, Laverty says

Jeremy Smerd

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