PA Gov.-elect takes Issue with Bush on Med Mal Limits

January 20, 2003

Pennsylvania’s Governor-elect, Democrat Ed Rendell, who was not among those invited to hear President Bush’s speech at the University of Scranton last week, in which he endorsed limits on “non-economic damages” in medical malpractice lawsuits, disagreed with that approach to solving the state’s current med mal insurance crisis.

According to a report from the Allentown Morning Call, Rendell called Bush’s remarks “not informed and not very helpful.” The Governor-elect joined a number of consumer groups and trial lawyers’ associations in accusing the insurance industry of using highly publicized damage awards to raise med mal premiums in order to make up for the current shortfall in returns on their investments. The consumer advocates claim that damage awards have generally followed the increases in health care costs, while premiums have been historically more closely affected by economic events.

Rendell also stressed that the cap on damages doesn’t address the problem, and indicated that Bush could have helped more by making needed changes in health care regulations, including designating all of the northeastern area of Pennsylvania as an “urban area.” The change would result in higher payments from Federal programs, notably Medicare, to health care providers. The Morning Call report noted that a similar reclassification several years ago had helped doctors and hospitals in the Lehigh Valley.

Rendell also pointed out that Pennsylvania had already passed three bills last year aimed at solving the med mal crisis in the state, and urged Bush not to go ahead with planned Medicare cuts.

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