The MoJ has today published the ‘Outcomes’ of both its review of MedCo and the Call for Evidence that ran from July to September last year.
The full document can be found here.
As a result of the review a number of changes have been proposed, the key ones being summarised below. The intention is to both provide additional clarification and to deal with some of the reported behavioural issues and abuses of the system. The MoJ says it will be working with MedCo to implement the changes in late summer 2016.
The revised offer for MROs upon completion of the search on Medco will be two tier 1 MROs and ten tier 2 MROs
MRO Qualifying Criteria
Partly in an effort to prevent the subversion of rules via the multiple registration of ‘shell’ MROs on the system changes are to be made to clarify and tighten the MRO definition and qualifying criteria. For example, in order to qualify as tier 1 an MRO will now need to have a minimum of 250 active MedCo accredited experts on its panel, be able to evidence a two year trading historyspecifically as an MRO, and on an ongoing basis get no more than 40% of its work from a single source. All MROs will now be required to adopt minimum service levels defined by Medco.
The revised draft definition is subject to a single question* online consultation ending on Friday 15 April.
Declaration of Direct Financial Links
Concern had been expressed over ownership of in-house MROs being transferred in the pre-MedCo period, sometimes to family members, so allowing the continuation of ‘in house’ referrals. The timeframe of the wording around past relationships is to be amended from 12 months to three years. An MRO will also have to make a financial links declaration annually.
The Call for Evidence showed strong support for formal regulation of MROs. The MoJ have shied away from doing anything at this time, but will keep the matter under review.
The proposed tightening and clarification of the definitions and criteria – particularly in respect of financial relationships – is to be welcomed. Once implemented and embedded this should go a long way to stamping out some of the sharp practice seen to date.
However, given the current delays in the accreditation of experts by MedCo it may be challenging for them to achieve a late summer timeframe for putting the changes in place.
Furthermore, with the Government’s detailed proposals on whiplash reform due to be published shortly there will no doubt be other amendments to the system that will need to be considered.
The Government’s recent announcement to strengthen the regulation of claims management and move responsibility to the FCA demonstrates that it is prepared to adopt a robust approach in this area. Consequently, whilst selecting the right regulator may be an issue, it can only be a matter of time before the formal regulation of MROs is introduced.
*”Does the draft definition accurately define the functions of an MRO for the production of medical reports in support of whiplash claims on MedCo”.
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