Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed HB 1211 on Monday, the legislation that extends the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (Mcare) Fund abatement program for Pennsylvania health-care providers through 2005. The extension fulfills provides a three-year abatement to physicians and nurse midwives.
“My goal in addressing the malpractice problem has always been to ensure that Pennsylvanians continue to have access to quality medical care,” Rendell said. “That means having health care professionals remain in Pennsylvania. By helping these providers with the cost of their malpractice insurance, we hope to keep them practicing in Pennsylvania until malpractice reforms undertaken by the Supreme Court, the legislature and the administrative branch have a chance to take effect.”
Mcare is the state-managed insurance fund that provides from $500,000 to $1 million of malpractice insurance for Pennsylvania’s health care providers and entities. Last year, the General Assembly passed the Health Care Provider Retention Program, which provided a two-year abatement for 2003 and 2004 for physicians and nurse midwives who met the eligibility requirements contained in the law. The governor originally sought a three-year abatement. Under the program, obstetricians, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, other high-risk surgeons and nurse midwives were eligible for a 100 percent abatement of their Mcare payment – all other physicians received 50 percent.
To date, the 2003 Abatement Program has provided $211,350,525 in financial relief to health care providers. The deadline for the 2004 abatement application is Feb. 15, 2005.
The bill extends the program for another year and includes podiatrists in the list of providers receiving the abatement moving forward.
“The combination of several innovate medical malpractice initiatives undertaken over the past few years is working,” Rendell said. “We are starting to turn the corner and see a slowing in the rate of increases in med-mal premiums. A number of new companies and risk retention groups recently entered the Pennsylvania malpractice market. And we have seen a reduction in the number of claims being filed by claimants and to some degree a reduction in the amount of claims payouts – we hope that these trends continue.”
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