Interview with Sarah E. Scher, CAP CEO

The Cooperative of American Physicians, Inc. (CAP) is a leading provider of medical malpractice coverage, risk management, and practice management services for California physicians. Meet Sarah E. Scher, Chief Executive Officer of CAP. Physician Today spoke with her recently to find out more about why an organization like CAP can be such a huge benefit to the state’s physicians, especially now during these uncertain times.

Physician Today: Your organization is a cooperative that provides medical professional liability coverage and other services to physicians and medical practices. Why is a cooperative better for protecting and supporting physicians than an insurance company?

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Sarah: The Cooperative of American Physicians was established in 1975. Our customers are members. We are uniquely positioned to be a partner in their businesses. In 1977, CAP formed the Mutual Protection Trust (MPT) to provide medical malpractice protection to healthcare providers. MPT today protects some 12,000 California physicians.

We do not operate with a profit motive. Our intent is to protect and bolster the success of our members’ medical practices. We do not answer to investors; instead we answer to our physician members because we are physician owned and governed. Our CAP Board of Directors and MPT Board of Trustees are composed entirely of practicing physicians who recognize the unique challenges faced by healthcare providers. They hold the executive team accountable for identifying and creating solutions that permit our members to focus on patient care.

Physician Today: That sounds like a unique approach for providing coverage to physicians, but how have you been able to deliver substantial cost savings year after year?

Sarah: Unlike a traditional insurance company, MPT assesses its members for the overall amount that is anticipated necessary to pay medical malpractice claims and administrative expenses over the next 12 months. This has typically made MPT and CAP more affordable, consistent, and stable than most insurance carriers. MPT’s sustained A.M. Best A+ Superior rating is proof of this.

This year, MPT utilized its unique structure and capacity to refund assessments to members in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognized our members’ needs and offered not only a timely refund, but also payment deferrals, assistance with how to apply for a CARES Act loan, and risk management, practice management, and telemedicine support throughout the crisis.

Physician Today: How has COVID-19 affected your business? What are you doing to ensure your members’ success during COVID-19?

Sarah: As a physician-based organization, we have a closer and more collaborative relationship with our members than a commercial insurance company might. Because of this, we were able to quickly learn, in real time, the kinds of challenges our members were facing. Some we expected, but others seemed counterintuitive. For example, we initially thought many of the practices would be overrun with sick patients. But once social distancing was broadly enacted, we learned that our members were facing massive reductions in revenue due to cancelled and delayed appointments and procedures.

That’s why we quickly launched our COVID-19 Resource Center to help physicians keep up to date on the legislative and regulatory responses from state and federal officials. We are helping them manage the unique risks and patient safety challenges to stay ahead of the curve on treatment — especially relating to telemedicine and proper coding/billing — and to maximize the small business support and financing of the CARES Act.

We continue to assist members individually when they contact us for guidance. But given the scale of this crisis, we’ve been proactive, reaching out to our members through regular information updates and webinars to answer questions about all sorts of business issues, including closing and reopening their offices. The CAP Risk Management, Practice Management, and Human Resources hotlines have been very busy.

And as I mentioned before, we quickly issued an assessment refund to members in April that we hope helps them however they’ve been affected by the crisis.

Physician Today: What is CAP doing to help the physician community at large during the crisis?

Sarah: First, we have opened up our COVID-19 Resource Center and webinars to all physicians, medical staff, and practice managers who wish to tune in, free of charge. And the response has been tremendous. We’ve had hundreds of non-CAP physicians join our webinars and visit the Resource Center, because they know of our reputation for providing valuable, actionable guidance to our members.

The most common concern we are hearing from physicians is the loss in revenue caused by the shutdown and the resulting need to reduce overhead expenses. This is where CAP’s time-tested business model of delivering coverage, at cost, has proven itself so valuable. We have already helped many physicians lower their costs for malpractice coverage by switching to CAP during the crisis. And they are saving thousands more through our enhanced services like the CAP Purchasing Alliance, a free group purchasing organization formed to help CAP members save on virtually everything they purchase for their practices.

Physician Today: How has COVID-19 affected CAP’s staff members and business operations?

Sarah: In addition to attracting California’s best physicians, CAP is also known for cultivating an exceptional team of staff members who continually strive for excellence in their work, much like our members do in their own practices. In less than one week, the company was able to migrate from a mostly office-based organization to a 100 percent work-at-home environment. CAP staff are fully engaged, productive, and accessible to our members by phone, email, and online. Having a dedicated team of seasoned professionals is one of CAP’s greatest assets. It allows us to be very nimble to accommodate the rapidly evolving situation. As the progression of the COVID-19 crisis dictates, CAP will carefully plan and execute its return to an office-based environment while still maintaining a productive remote working component.   

Physician Today: We appreciate your time, Sarah. We know how busy you must be with all the recent changes happening here in California, and in the entire world.

Sarah: Thank you. It’s important for California physicians to know that CAP is here working hard to help during these unprecedented times in the medical field. CAP personnel are always available to answer questions and to offer information and education. We have numerous resources to support our medical community during the COVID-19 crisis. We even have a new resource center on our website: http://www.capphysicians.com/articles/cap-covid-19-resource-center. We invite any California physician to get a customized quote for affordable medical malpractice coverage at http://www.capphysicians.com/instant-quote.