Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell has apparently thrown in the towel on reforming the state’s medical malpractice insurance crisis this year, provoking an angry reaction from the medical community.
He announced that after months of work to develop bipartisan support for a malpractice insurance abatement for doctors, he has regretfully directed Insurance Commissioner Diane Koken to notify all physicians that, by law, they must pay their assessments to the state’s Mcare insurance fund by Dec. 31, because it is unlikely the Legislature will consider his proposal this year.
“Even before my inauguration, I promised I would try to reduce significantly the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums for all doctors through an abatement,” Rendell said in a written statement. “I have also consistently reminded physicians that, despite my personal commitment, I couldn’t give them relief without legislative approval. Unfortunately, this message has not resulted in legislative action. I will, however, continue to work with legislative leaders to craft a solution to the mounting problem of medical malpractice insurance in Pennsylvania.”
Both Rendell and his predecessor Mark Schweiker have permitted doctors to defer payment of Mcare premiums four times during the past 12 months. In June, legislative leaders asked Governor Rendell to work with them through the budget process to identify a funding source for the abatement. “I extended the deferral because I had strong indications that a funding source would be identified and subsequently approved by the Legislature,” Rendell indicated. “Since the law was not amended, legally we cannot order another extension and must collect payments.”
The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP) released a statement by President and CEO Carolyn F. Scanlan in response to Rendell’s decision as follows:
“Pennsylvania’s hospitals are deeply concerned that the decision to collect these assessments in full by December 31 will further jeopardize Pennsylvanians’ access to high-quality health care. The Administration said throughout 2003 that they would provide Mcare abatement for physicians. Today’s action comes as a shock to Pennsylvania’s health care community.
“We have said that both short-term and long-term reforms are needed to address the liability insurance crisis. The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania has advocated for hospitals and patients throughout the year – through our participation in countless discussions with public officials, legal experts, physicians, and hospital leaders – about how to resolve the problem. Pennsylvania will continue to be plagued by a toxic combination of limited liability insurance availability, ever-rising costs, and fleeing physicians that will erode our health care system – unless there is genuine progress on these critical reforms.”
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