Pa. Gov. May Delay Malpractice-Fund Payments

December 17, 2007

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said he is probably going to allow doctors to put off payments to the state’s medical-malpractice insurance fund as lawmakers work on legislation to extend a state subsidy that lowers those bills.

The subsidy, which helps doctors pay for supplemental medical-malpractice insurance through a state-run fund known as MCare, will end after Dec. 31 because no legislation has been passed to continue it.

As a result, Rendell said he was considering delaying the payment due date until April 1 on bills the state sends in January to doctors and other health care professionals for the full amount.

Rendell said he would make a final decision between Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“We’re not going to go through the pain initially of having the doctors send in their checks, and then having to return them if we continue the (subsidy),” Rendell said after speaking at a nurses’ conference in Hershey.

Earlier this month, Rendell threatened to withhold his approval of the 2008 subsidy until lawmakers act on his proposal to expand state-subsidized insurance to uninsured adults.

He has called on lawmakers to set aside at least part of a projected $500 million MCare surplus for his “Cover All Pennsylvanians” insurance initiative as part of legislation to continue the subsidy for a sixth straight year.

MCare pays medical malpractice awards and settlements above $500,000. State tax dollars help subsidize the premiums that providers pay for the coverage.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, a doctors’ lobbying group, is urging Rendell to suspend medical professionals’ payments and to disconnect a reauthorization of the subsidy from his insurance initiative.

If he doesn’t, physicians’ insurance costs will jump significantly on Jan. 1, the medical society’s president, Dr. Peter S. Lund, said in a statement.

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