Efforts Continue on PA Med Mal Reform

February 18, 2002

While remaining optimistic that a solution to Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice insurance crisis would eventually be found, Governor Mark Schweiker admitted that after the failure of legislators to reach an agreement (See IJ Website Feb.14), it might take longer than expected.

“If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that this complex problem wasn’t created overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight, either,” Schweiker stated.

While the legislators were being praised for their efforts to come up with a bill acceptable to all sides, the actual process of doing so remains difficult. The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) “recognized” Schweiker’s efforts, and those of, Senate Majority Leader David “Chip” Brightbill (R-Lebanon), and House Majority Leader John Perzel (R-Philadelphia) “for their progress on medical liability reform.”

Progress there may be, but it has come very slowly, with doctors and health care associations insisting that tort reform should be part of any bill, while the state’s trial lawyers insist that such changes are unnecessary and will erode patients’ rights.

Despite the problems, both Governor Schweiker and the HAP expressed hope that eventually a bill would emerge that would stabilize rising medical malpractice premiums, while at the same time improving patient safety. The HAP, however, warned that the effect of any tort reforms on premiums would take “three to five years,” and indicated that additional financial support in the near term should be part of any reform package.

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