Pa. Gov. Rendell Pens Bill Fulfilling Commitment to Aid Doctors in Paying for Malpractice Insurance

December 13, 2004

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell was joined by health care providers and members of his cabinet Monday when he signed House Bill 1211, 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 the Governor’s commitment to provide 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,” the Governor 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 the Governor signed in the ceremony on Monday 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,” the Governor said. “We are starting to turn the corner and see a slowing in the rate of increases in med malpractice premiums. Under the strong leadership of Chief Justice Cappy, the Supreme Court has enacted unprecedented rules changes. 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.

“These reforms, the abatement of 2003 and 2004, and now this extension of the abatement for 2005 are all about fulfilling my commitment that Pennsylvanians continue to have access to health care.”

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