By Jimmie E. Gates

Clarion Ledger
Jackson, Mississippi

December 17, 2004

(CANTON, MISSISSIPPI) - A Belzoni physician known for treating the poor says he has never had a malpractice claim filed against him, but he was in court Thursday trying to keep his medical malpractice insurance from being canceled Jan. 1.

Dr. Ronald V. Myers Sr. had sought a preliminary injunction against Medical Assurance Company of Mississippi in Holmes County Chancery Court.

MACM, the nonprofit insurance arm of the Mississippi Medical Association, informed Myers by letter Sept. 13 that his policy wouldn't be renewed.

One of the key reasons MACM cited in not renewing Myers' insurance is the physician recently took over a pain clinic in Tupelo.

"He has no pain clinic training; no board certification in pain management," MACM attorney Walter Johnson said Thursday. "What Dr. Myers is trying to do is to force this company to take $3 million in risk. ... He can get insurance elsewhere."

After arguments Thursday in Canton, Chancery Judge Janace Harvey-Goree said the case was a contract dispute that should be settled in Madison County Circuit Court. MACM has an office in Madison County.

Myers said after the hearing that there is no way to get the case heard before Jan. 1 in Circuit Court because of the holidays and other scheduling conflicts.

At stake is whether Myers will have insurance to keep his clinics open in Belzoni, Tchula, Greenwood and Indianola. He has about 3,000 patients being served by the clinics.

Myers said he paid $8,000 a year for coverage at his four clinics, but received one quote for $40,000 a year and another for $16,000 to insure the 2,000-patient Tchula clinic. He said the other clinics would require similar coverage.

"I can't afford it," Myers said of obtaining insurance through a regular private insurance company. "My practice is a Christian ministry. Many of my patients are the poorest of the poor."

Myers said he treats patients regardless of whether they can pay.

MACM attorney Walter Johnson argued in court the insurance company has no legal obligation to renew a policy.

MACM, created by legislation in 1976, provides coverage to 60 percent of the physicians in the state.

Myers said he didn't take over a pain clinic in Tupelo. He said he opened his own Christian health center in Tupelo after the pain clinic physician lost his license to practice medicine.

"I was trying to help people who didn't have anyone to treat them," Myers said. "I never claimed to be a pain specialist.

Carey Jones, a patient of Myers who was prepared to testify on the physician's behalf, said losing Myers' clinics would leave a major void in the community's access to health care.

"A lot of people wouldn't know what to do if they didn't have Dr. Myers to go to," Jones said.


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