The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has approved a bill that would extend state subsidies for two years to more than 30,000 doctors and health care providers who pay into a state-run program that provides catastrophic medical malpractice insurance.
The bill, which passed 196-4, still requires approval from the state Senate. The bill would extend the subsidies through 2006.
Last year, the Legislature approved two years of subsidies for doctors, covering 2003 and 2004, at an annual cost of $220 million to be paid out of cigarette tax revenues and overflows from a state automobile insurance fund.
Gov. Ed Rendell had first proposed the subsidy to help doctors afford rising insurance premiums until tougher restrictions on the filing of medical malpractice lawsuits designed to lower insurance costs could take effect.
Rendell’s spokeswoman Kate Philips said that the administration will review whether to support a four-year subsidy, as opposed to the three-year subsidy that the governor originally proposed.
The tax dollars help most physicians pay some or all of the assessment for the state-run fund called MCare, which helps pay the cost of malpractice claims that rise above the $500,000 in primary coverage that the state requires each doctor to secure from the private marketplace.
Certain high-risk specialists — orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons, neurosurgeons, obstetrician-gynecologists, emergency physicians, nurse-midwives and physicians who deliver babies in rural areas — would be relieved of their entire MCare assessment, an amount that is typically less than their primary coverage premiums.
Most other physicians would pay half of their MCare assessment. The House bill would add podiatrists to the doctors who pay half of their MCare assessment, which would cost the state about $2.7 million annually.
A doctor who accepts the subsidy must stay in Pennsylvania through the end of the following year.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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