Pa. Attorney General Sends Letter to Commissioner Urging Stop of JUA Health Increase

August 15, 2002

Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher has sent a letter to Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken urging her to suspend the imposition of the latest increase by the Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association

Fisher said the JUA has received approval for a plan that subjects health care providers on Sept. 1 to rate increases as high as 48 percent. The JUA is the “insurer of last resort” for medical malpractice in Pennsylvania and generally covers those physicians who are unable to obtain private insurance coverage. As the insurer of last resort, the JUA is obligated by Pennsylvania statute to insure all physicians who apply for coverage.

Fisher pointed to the passage of Act 13 of 2002, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Act, and the Fair Share Act as efforts by the General Assembly to address the rising medical malpractice liability costs to health care providers in Pennsylvania. Fisher said the changes in Pennsylvania law should result in lower rates for liability insurance.

“Pennsylvania’s failure to address the medical liability crisis is going to result in the immediate decline in the quality of health care of all Pennsylvanians as doctors either close down their practices or move out of state,” Fisher wrote.

Fisher called on Koken to convene a meeting with insurance companies doing business in Pennsylvania to determine why the legislative and procedural changes have not had an impact on rate making.

Fisher also asked Koken to immediately implement relief to health care providers from surcharges imposed by state law. He noted that Act 13 provides for a discount on surcharges and assessments payable during 2002 by doctors and hospitals under the Medical Care Services Malpractice Act. The Attorney General asked that these discounts, which could lower payments by almost 8 percent, be issued now rather than forcing doctors and hospitals to apply for credits later.

Finally, Fisher noted that parts of Act 13 do not go into effect until this fall, but these surcharge discounts can be implemented now.

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