Pa. Gov. Rendell Offers Med-Mal Package

March 25, 2004

Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell yesterday offered new proposals to address Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice situation. The proposals supplement those he offered in June 2003.

“Court statistics released last week showing a 30 percent decrease in the number of malpractice suits filed in 2003 are great news and a tribute to the reforms enacted by Governor Schweiker, the General Assembly and Supreme Court prior to my tenure as Governor,” Governor Rendell said. “They confirm what I’ve said for more than a year – the reforms are good ones and will have an impact on the medical malpractice situation in Pennsylvania. However, it will take a few more years for those reforms to affect physicians’ bottom lines, so the reforms I’m proposing today are critical to both keeping the situation stable and to strengthening what is in place.”

His latest proposal seeks to cap attorneys’ fees; create a mediation newtork statewide; and give the state insurance commissioner more leeway in setting malpractice insurance rates.

He also builds on his Mcare abatement program, which was passed by the General Assembly in December and gives physicians and nurse midwives some $220 million of assistance with part of their medical malpractice insurance bills for 2003 and 2004. It also includes initiatives that complement the extensive reform package he proposed last year.

Rendell praised the work being done by the Supreme Court, saying that it was a true partner in making reforms reality.

“Pennsylvanians should know that we’re proposing solutions that are designed to help recruit and keep physicians in Pennsylvania,” Governor Rendell said. “These are reforms we can make now and will have an immediate impact on the problem.

“Unfortunately, the issue of capping damage awards is being seen as the only reform issue for many people,” he said. “Those who view changing our constitution as a way to immediately solve the problem need to remember that it will take a few years, at minimum, before the question can appear on the ballot. I think it is unwise to wait that long to begin addressing the problems, and the reforms I’ve proposed can start having an impact on the problem much more quickly.”

He was referring to a measure that has pased the state Senate and now rests in the House that calls for a constututional amendment to cap jury awards.

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