An item on liability insurance in last week's Associations column indicated that the Colorado Home Care Association might go out of business. It should have said that because the insurance policy the group offered its members was canceled, many of its member companies could go out of business.

The association community has sponsored two Washington conferences recently to address what some call the most important issue facing corporate and association executives today: the soaring cost of liability insurance.

Associations are involved in this issue because member companies are asking for guidance and because many associations provide their members with liability insurance policies that are being canceled by the insurance industry.

The Colorado Home Care Association recently had its policy canceled, and the group probably will go out of business because of it, said Steve Carey, executive director of the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives (GWSAE) and co-sponsor of last week's Liability Crisis Conference at the Washington Convention Center.

The conference, which also was sponsored by the Small Business Legislation Council (SBLC), brought representatives from the insurance industry together with trial lawyers, government regulators and association executives.

The second Washington meeting, sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in late November, drew more than 300 association and corporate executives.

"The liability issue certainly ranks with the most important issues for the Chamber," said Barry Bauman, the Chamber's corporate liability attorney and a conference organizer.

At both meetings, association executives and representatives told horror stories about their experiences, including tales of doctors who chose to leave the medical profession rather than risk being sued, public day-care centers that were forced to close their doors because of canceled insurance policies and chemical companies battling skyrocketing insurance rates.

Among solutions proposed at the GWSAE conference: taking the issue to the state level, and creating risk pools that would force insurance companies to insure everyone, said Wayne Smith, treasurer of the SBLC. The SBLC and GWSAE are planning to sponsor a longer symposium in March on the same issue. Some associations and companies still are not aware of the increases, and won't be until their premiums come due, Carey said.

Bauman said the Chamber sees itself as a clearinghouse for the coalitions that have formed on the insurance problem. The Chamber, which proposed strategies similar to those suggested at the GWSAE conference, also will appoint a civil-justice action group that will work to change civil laws and make insurance more available and affordable, Bauman said. PROFESSIONAL

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