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Medical malpractice insurers seeing weaker earnings

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The medical professional liability sector is stable, but there is concern about weakening financial performance, continued soft market pricing, diminishing reserve redundancies, low interest rates and other challenges, says A.M. Best Co. Inc. in a report issued Wednesday.

“A shrinking insured base of independent physicians, competitive market conditions, and low new money yields appear to be taking a toll and adversely impacting the earnings trend” for most medical professional liability insurers says the Oldwick, New Jersey-based rating agency in the report “Strong but Declining Profitability in 2015 for Medical Professional Liability Sector.”

While “this is an exciting time with challenging opportunities,” the sector “continues to be a highly competitive market, and base rates have been soft for an extended period of time,” says the report. Organic growth is “very difficult, which has contributed to the use of risk retention groups and expansion in multiple states,” it states.

The report says the top 20 medical professional liability writers account for 65.7% of the direct premiums written in the sector, led by Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which generated $968.8 million in 2015 premium.

Direct written premiums for the sector declined 3.2% in 2015 to $7.23 billion vs. 2014, according to the report.