(CBS4) — Kaylee Bowman struggled with her weight all her life.
“I grew up with weight issues. High school was a very sensitive time for me. I was always overweight,” explained Bowman in a recent interview.
Then, she worked at it and by age 22, she had shed an impressive 75-pounds, leading to a new problem.
Bowman said, “I had loose skin. So, I wanted to get some sort of reconstruction done on my body.”
To eliminate the excess skin on her arms and abdomen, Bowman selected a physician she was familiar with, Dr. Scott Mimms who specializes in aesthetic surgery. For years, she had seen Mimms in the gospel group at her church.
“That gave me more comfort to know that he also was doing what I wanted to be done and it was in the church community. In my head it was a win-win,” said Bowman.
On the day of the surgery, Bowman showed up at Mimms’ office for what she was told was a six-hour procedure. She told CBS4, it ended up lasting twelve hours and she woke up twice during the surgery. The second time, Bowman said, “it was during the liposuction, and it felt like bruising, jabbing, kind of stabbing feeling in my side. I was terrified.”
When the surgery was over Bowman was sent home to recover, but pain and a fever keep increasing, prompting her to head for the emergency room at Community North Hospital. She would end up spending several days at the hospital fighting off a severe infection.
She would recover but was left with lingering pain and scars on her arms, breasts, and stomach. When Bowman gave birth to her daughter late last year, “I was not able to breastfeed due to the pain I still feel sometimes.”
Bowman is one of 17 patients who’ve named Mimms in a formal complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance. Most of the complaints claim surgeries by Mimms left patients with an array of bad outcomes including severe infections, scarring, disfigurement and in two cases patients died.
Mimms continues to practice medicine. He advertises on Instagram, has a current state medical license, and gets his malpractice insurance through IRMIA, the Indiana state government’s very own malpractice insurance business. The creation of IRMIA is a story in itself. An old story.
IRMIA’s connection to Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen
From 1973 through 1981, Republican Otis Bowen was the Governor of Indiana. He was also a doctor with a strong distaste for malpractice lawsuits.
In the Indiana State Archives, CBS4 unearthed a letter to a constituent from Bowen where he complained about patients filing lawsuits against their doctors, “It seems to be a way of life for some people to sue whether there be a good reason for it or not.”
Bowen in 1975 pushed through the state legislature the Indiana Medical Malpractice Reform Act. Supporters hailed it as a potential national model to address soaring malpractice insurance rates. What the new law did was make it much more difficult to sue doctors for malpractice. It also established the Indiana Residual Malpractice Insurance Authority.
With $1.5 million in seed money from the state treasury, IRMIA began offering malpractice insurance to healthcare professionals in Indiana who could not obtain coverage from commercial insurers. At the time the bill became law, younger doctors and other medical professionals struggled to get covered.
IRMIA still in place today
What CBS4 found in our investigation is that IRMIA has been the malpractice insurer with a host of physicians and others with checkered professional histories. For starters, to obtain IRMIA coverage, a licensed healthcare professional must have been rejected by at least two other malpractice insurers.
A spokeswoman from the Indiana Department of Insurance would not disclose IRMIA’s premium rates but did disclose that annual costs for coverage run as high as $44,000.
Just eleven states (including Indiana) offer their own malpractice insurance. It is a niche business, explained Mike Stinson, Vice President at the Washington-based Medical Professional Liability Association, a trade group for malpractice insurers.
“Essentially, the state’s acting as an insurer of last resort, when the healthcare professional can’t find insurance in the commercial market,” said Stinson, adding, “in most states they not covering a substantial number of physicians.
That is certainly true in Indiana.
CBS4 obtained list of IRMIA customers
Earlier this year, CBS4 obtained the complete list of IRMIA customers in the state. In total, there are 119 policies written. 56 doctors have IRMIA malpractice. Several of those physicians also have separate malpractice policies for their practice as well. There are also five dentists, two physician assistants, a nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, a doctor of podiatric medicine and a person holding a Ph.D. who gets their malpractice coverage through IRMIA.
Among the doctors with this coverage include:
- a Carmel physician whose medical license was placed on a three-year probation after over-prescribing weight loss drugs
- a plastic surgeon in Marion who has been issued two letters of reprimand from the Indiana Medical Licensing Board
- a Greenwood anesthetist involved in a settled malpractice claim that alleged the doctor’s errors during a shoulder surgery left the patient brain dead
IRMIA denies CBS4 an interview
The professional histories of IRMIA’s customers prompted a lot of questions during our CBS4 investigation. For weeks, multiple requests for an interview with the person who oversees IRMIA. That is Insurance Commissioner Amy Beard. All interview requests were either declined or ignored.
Instead of an interview, a department spokeswoman offered instead an email defending IRMIA that included this, “in the event of an act of malpractice, the patient and their families will have the opportunity to recover compensation for their injuries.”
Last year, IRMIA paid out just six claims to patients. The average payment was $111,000.
Review of IRMIA coming?
While researching this story, it was quickly apparent not many Hoosiers were aware of IRMIA’s existence. Even people working in state government were unfamiliar with the malpractice insurer.
State Senator Ed Charbonneau was an exception.
The Republican chair of the State Senate Health Committee knew of IRMIA, but the operation had not come up for review within his panel.
In a recent meeting at the State Capitol, CBS4 briefed State Sen. Charbonneau who remains supportive of IRMIA but has reservations about doctors with serious and/or multiple malpractice claims filed with the Indiana Insurance Department.
“I think the question here is whether we want these (doctors) practicing in Indiana,” said Charbonneau. He added he wants to have a closer look in the next legislative session on how these doctors could face greater scrutiny from the state’s Medical Licensing Board.
CBS4 Investigates will continue to update this story as developments warrant.