Whiplash claimants using the new MedCo system from 6 April will be given the choice of one “high-volume national” medical reporting organisation (MRO) and six smaller ones, or seven medical experts, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has decided.
In a decision published this week, the MoJ said that “if we were to include fewer than six smaller MROs, there is a risk of excessively favouring the high volume, national MROs. To include more than six smaller MROs would likely compromise the independence of medical reporting intended under the MedCo system.
“It was also felt appropriate that the number of options presented on completion of a directly instructed expert search be the same as that for MROs.”
It said this option provided a “pragmatic and proportionate” response to “balancing the need to minimise any undue impact on the market and ensuring the choice of MRO is not so wide as to negate the intended effects of implementing MedCo”. The decision will be reviewed once the MoJ has six months’ worth of data to examine.
The MoJ said the operation of MedCo is intended “to strike a balance between, on the one hand, avoiding a disproportionate adverse effect on organisations which have established their business over time and, on the other, avoiding entrenching their position and creating barriers to entry that will protect current organisations from competition”.
Among the features of a high-volume national MRO, as defined by the MoJ, are the capacity to process at least 40,000 independent medical reports each year, that it has contractual arrangements with at least 250 individual medical experts, and at registration it has a minimum of five distinct clients, which are not associated organisations with the MRO, with none of them representing more than 40% of its total instructions.
The high-volume MROs will be charged £75,000 a year to be a member of MedCo, with other MROs charged £15,000, and individual experts £150.
The big MROs also need to lodge a bond or other financial instrument of £100,000 to show that they have sufficient funds to remunerate medical experts from whom it has commissioned reports in the case of failure of the MRO. For the other MROs it is £20,000.
All MROs have to carry at least £1m in professional indemnity insurance and £3m in public liability insurance, while declaring any ‘direct financial links’ between those who commission reports and those who produce them – breaking these is one of the stated aims of the reforms.