As expected, Pennsylvania Governor Mark Schweiker signed medical malpractice reform legislation that proponents estimate will save doctors as much as 20 percent on insurance premiums while providing additional patient safety measures.
The Senate approved House Bill 1802 unanimously by following a vote of 196 to 1 in the Assembly (See IJ Website March 14). Schweiker signed the bill during a special ceremony at the historic College of Physicians of Philadelphia. A bulletin from the Governor’s office notes that the College was “Founded in 1787 by a group of prominent Philadelphia physicians, including Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and John Morgan, founder of America’s first medical school, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is home to the renowned Mutter Museum and one of the oldest and largest medical libraries in the country.”
Schwieker praised the new legislation as providing the balance of a “three-pronged approach to reform that I called for in December: strong tort reform, lower insurance premiums and patient safety.” The Bill’s most important provisions include:
Highlights of the bill include:
— Requiring hospitals to report medical errors to a newly formed Patient Safety Authority and the state Department of Health in an effort to identify preventable trends and problems;
— Providing immediate relief to physicians by giving them a CAT Fund discount in 2002, 2003 and 2004;
— Strengthening the state Medical Board’s power by granting it enforcement authority to investigate physicians;
— Privatizing the claims handling of the Pennsylvania Medical Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund) beginning this fall, and phasing it out entirely beginning in 2006;
— Allowing malpractice judgments for future medical costs to be spread out over time;
— Requiring claims to be filed within seven years from the date of injury;
— Eliminating the duplication of recovery for past medical expenses; and
— Allowing doctors and hospitals to have verdicts lowered by a judge if it would force a doctor out of business or force a hospital to cut services, thereby damaging the community.
The Governor’s announcement stated that, “Overall, physicians can expect to save up to 20 percent annually, once all reforms are in place. Tort reforms will lead to 10 percent savings; the phase-out of the CAT Fund will mean an additional 5 percent; and patient- safety measures also will provide up to 5 percent in savings.”|”pa, gov., schweiker, signs, med, mal, reform, law
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