Medical professionals are still waiting on Congress for liability protection when they act in good faith under circumstances beyond their control during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

But even without that help in place, the recession that the coronavirus has caused was the first pandemic-related issue addressed in a credit rating that Fort Wayne-based MedPro Group received earlier this summer from AM Best.

Best is a rating agency known for its insurance industry expertise. MedPro, previously known as Medical Protective, sells liability insurance for physicians and dentists.

MedPro is on the Greater Fort Wayne Inc. list of Allen County’s largest employers with a local workforce of close to 390.

“In 2020, the group has experienced balance sheet volatility due to equity market devaluations related to COVID-19. The group’s large allocation in common stocks exposes them to significant volatility,” Best said in a June report on the MedPro rating.

“However, the group is well-positioned to accept this risk due to their low underwriting leverage and the investment managers’ historical trend of success in volatile markets,” it said.

“AM Best also conducted stress tests on the group’s risk-adjusted capitalization, which incorporate multiple assumptions related to the market impact of COVID-19. MedPro performed well under all stressed scenarios, and management believes the impact of COVID-19 will be manageable.”

MedPro’s superior financial strength A++ and long-term issuer aa+ ratings apply to its various affiliates, including Fort Wayne-based Wellfleet Insurance Co.

“We’re so proud of our financial rating,” Drew DiGiorgio, Wellfleet’s president and CEO, said in a news release.

“As a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family, we make business decisions and investments that align with a long-term customer strategy. In addition to our world-class innovation and service focus, our team is committed to delivering sound underwriting, every day.”

The ratings reflected balance sheet strength, which Best categorized as strongest, along with a favorable business profile, powerful operating performance and appropriate enterprise risk management.

The leading market position MedPro maintains also factored into the ratings, as well as “substantial distribution capabilities, prudent claims-handling philosophy and culture of maintaining a margin of safety,” Best said.

“Furthermore, the ratings benefit from the explicit and implicit financial support provided by its affiliate, National Indemnity Company, and MedPro’s ultimate parent, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which includes reinsurance programs, investment opportunities and capital support,” the report said.

The ratings MedPro received were unchanged from those the company received from Best during 2019.

The biggest news with the company since that 2019 evaluation was an October announcement that it had agreed to acquire the renewal rights to the healthcare liability book of business from Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

“This transaction is further evidence of our unwavering dedication to the challenging healthcare liability market in the US and, increasingly, around the world,” Jean-Paul Rebillard, MedPro Specialty president, said in the announcement.

“We are excited by this opportunity because Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ healthcare professional liability clients and approach to underwriting and service complement our industry-leading Specialty business that provides solutions to healthcare organizations of all types.”

Government guidelines have evolved relating to the treatment of patients with COVID-19 and with conditions considered less urgent, depending at times on the availability of medical equipment and supplies where shortages of them have developed.

In advocating for legislative protection, the American Medical Association has said without it doctors eventually could face lawsuits over:

• Suspending elective, in-person visits and procedures.

• Being assigned to provide care outside the physician’s general practice area.

• Rationing care because of equipment shortages, including ventilators.

• Encountering inadequate testing that could lead to delayed or inaccurate diagnosis.

• Delaying treatment for patients with conditions other than COVID-19.

Rather than passing liability-limiting legislation focused on the health care industry, Republican leaders in the Senate have pushed for the Safe To Work Act, which they say would provide pandemic-related liability protection to businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions as well as health care providers.

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