Governor Bush Creates Task Force to Address Healthcare Liability Insurance Crisis

August 28, 2002
Source: The Executive Office of the Governor

Task Force to focus on the accessibility and affordability of healthcare in Florida

Governor Jeb Bush today created the Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance to address the impact of skyrocketing liability insurance premiums on healthcare in Florida . The task force will make recommendations to prevent a future rapid decline in accessibility and affordability of healthcare in Florida .

“It is imperative that we find a way to address this crisis before it adversely affects patient access to medical care in our state,” said Governor Bush. “The highly-respected and educated members of this task force have demonstrated leadership skills and a proven record in problem solving. I know they will give this issue the thoughtful consideration it deserves, recognizing that input from all affected parties must be part of the solution.”

“I applaud Governor Bush for once again taking steps to maintain high quality healthcare in our state,” said Florida Department of Health Secretary John O. Agwunobi, M.D., M.B.A., whose department will be responsible for providing logistical and staff support for the task force as it develops its recommendations. “ Florida has one of the finest healthcare systems in the world. Today’s healthcare liability insurance crisis threatens the health of our healthcare system and therefore the health of every Floridian. The time to act is now.”

The task force will be chaired by John C. Hitt, Ph.D., President of the University of Central Florida, and includes the following members: Marshall Criser, Jr., President Emeritus, University of Florida; Richard Beard, Trustee, University of South Florida; Donna E. Shalala, President of the University of Miami; and Fred Gainous, President of Florida A & M University. (Please see attached biographies)

According to statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), healthcare liability insurance rates in Florida have increased an average of 30 percent in the past two years, and further increases are expected.

During the past three years, numerous healthcare liability insurance carriers in Florida have either been liquidated, forced into rehabilitation or have stopped selling professional liability insurance in Florida . The remaining companies are quickly reaching capacity and are unable to expand their risk base to cover physicians whose policies are being terminated by other carriers, potentially leaving some physicians with no coverage.

The task force will hear testimony from experts, consumers and a broad range of stakeholders and interested parties from around the state. Following deliberation, the task force will submit a report of its recommendations and/or proposed legislation to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives by January 31, 2003 .

This report will include:

  • findings from an examination of the Florida healthcare professional liability insurance market, pertinent tort laws, claims and premium data compared to other states of similar size and diversity;
  • an assessment of the impact of the cost, accessibility and availability of healthcare professional liability insurance on the cost, accessibility and availability of high quality healthcare in this state; and
  • specific strategies to ease the healthcare liability insurance crisis faced by physicians and hospitals and other healthcare providers in the state.

  • The task force shall continue in existence until all of its objectives are achieved, but no later than June 30, 2003 .  


Governor’s Select Task Force on Healthcare Professional Liability Insurance Members
  • Richard A. "Dick" Beard, III is a real estate advisor with R. A. Beard, Co. He served as a member of the Florida Board of Regents, and is currently a member of the University of South Florida Board of Trustees and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute Board of Directors. He previously served on the Alumni Board of Trustees at the Georgia Institute of Technology and on the Board of Trustees for the University of Tampa . He is a member of the Florida Council of 100 and serves on the Board of Directors for the Tampa General Hospital Foundation. Beard received his bachelor's degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1967. Mr. Beard is a resident of Tampa .

  • Marshall Criser, Jr., of Jacksonville , served as president of the University of Florida from 1984 to 1989, and as chairman of the Florida Board of Regents from 1974 to 1977. He is currently a member of the UF Board of Trustees. Criser retired last year as a partner from McGuire Wodds, LLP, a law firm based in Jacksonville , and is currently serving as UF's President Emeritus. He is also a member of the UF Hospital Board since 1984 and is serving as the current director of the UF Foundation. Before that, Mr. Criser was the Palm Beach County School Board's Attorney from 1958 to 1964. He has received honorary degrees from Flagler College and Florida Technical University in recognition of his valuable contributions to education. Mr. Criser received his Bachelor's degree in 1951 and his law degree in 1967, both of them from UF.

  • Fred Gainous, Ph.D., is the ninth President of Florida A&M University. Prior to assuming the presidency, the FAMU alumnus served as Chancellor of the Alabama College System for 14 years, where he was instrumental in leading the merger of many of Alabama 's two-year campuses. His community college merger plan gained the support of business and industry in the state of Alabama and nationwide. As chief executive officer for the Alabama system, he strengthened faculty credential standards, enhanced curricula, encouraged technical colleges to seek accreditation with the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and implemented a statewide system of regional advisory councils.

  • John C. Hitt, Ph.D., became the fourth President of the University of Central Florida on March 1, 1992 . A native of Houston , TX , he graduated cum laude in 1962 from Austin College in Sherman , TX , earning a B.A. degree in Psychology. His M.S. (1964) and Ph.D. (1966) were awarded from Tulane University , both in physiological psychology. His graduate education was supported by fellowships from the Danforth Foundation and the National Science Foundation. President Hitt began teaching at Tulane and later taught at Texas Christian University . In 1972 he was named associate dean at TCU and in 1974 was appointed vice president of TCU Research Foundation. Dr. Hitt became dean of the graduate school at TCU in 1975. From 1977 to 1987, he was vice president for academic affairs and professor of psychology at Bradley University , Peoria , IL . He subsequently held a similar position at the University of Maine and served as interim president from 1991 to 1992, when he came to UCF.

  • Donna E. Shalala became the fifth President of the University of Miami on June 1, 2001 . She has more than 25 years’ experience as an accomplished scholar, teacher, and administrator. She is also a professor of political science, epidemiology and public health, and education. In 1993 President Clinton appointed her Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) where she served for eight years, becoming the longest serving HHS Secretary in U.S. history. At the beginning of her tenure, HHS had a budget of nearly $600 billion, which included a wide variety of programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Child Care and Head Start, Welfare, the Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).