By Kartikay Mehrotra
It’s health insurers’ cardinal rule: disclose pre-existing conditions.
Now comes a case in which that familiar decree involves not a patient, but rather a $1.5 million surgical robot known as the da Vinci system.
Two insurance companies say da Vinci’s maker, Intuitive Surgical Inc., failed to reveal more than 700 injury claims when it applied for liability coverage. Intuitive says that’s nonsense.
If a federal judge concludes the insurers are right and rescinds policies providing $25 million in coverage, one of the fastest-growing medical device manufacturers would be left with only self-insurance for a one-year period. Intuitive, meanwhile, accuses Illinois Union Insurance Co. and Navigators Specialty Insurance Co. of acting deceitfully and breaking their contracts.
Intuitive’s profits have been on the rise since surviving scrutiny by regulators over its disclosures. Sales have rebounded since a 2013 slump when regulators queried surgeons about an increase in adverse event reports and the Food and Drug Administration warned about the company’s transparency on product corrections. U.S. hospitals used Intuitive’s robot-assisted surgery in 176,000 operations during the first three months of this year, a 17 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.
Still, even as Intuitive shares have risen 18 percent this year while Chief Executive Officer Gary Guthart pushes to expand the da Vinci’s international sales, the company is dogged by patients blaming surgery complications on its devices. The company said in 2014 there were about 3,000 claims, many of which it says have been settled.