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Governor Rendell Says Medical Malpractice Insurance Continues to Show Signs of Significant Improvement

Both Mcare and court claims lower than in 2003

HARRISBURG, Pa., April 23 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today said that the most recent data from the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund (Mcare) and the Pennsylvania courts point to significant improvement in the medical malpractice climate in Pennsylvania and the success of administrative, legislative and judicial reforms that have been made since 2002.

"Pennsylvania is a success story when it comes to medical malpractice reforms," Governor Rendell said. "When Mcare claim payments began to decrease after 2003, some argued that it was a temporary phenomenon. However, Mcare claim payments have decreased each year since 2003, and Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille reported earlier this month that, in 2008, medical malpractice claim filings of all types and verdicts against health care providers statewide declined by 41 percent.

"Our actions have worked. Thanks to thoughtful legislative reforms passed in 2002, along with aggressive judicial and administrative reforms implemented since then, the number of malpractice cases being filed and the cost of malpractice insurance continue to drop."

The 2008 court statistics are compared against "base year" 2000-02 data. The base years are the period just prior to two significant rule changes made by the Supreme Court after statutory changes by the General Assembly.

The first change required attorneys to obtain from a medical professional a certificate of merit that establishes that the medical procedures in a case fell below applicable standards of care. The second change required medical malpractice actions to be brought only in the county where the cause of action took place -- a move aimed at eliminating so-called "venue shopping."

"Chief Justice Castille said he believes the evidence proves that the sharp drop in medical malpractice litigation, which began in 2003, was not a temporary correction, but a sustained and stable response to the procedural rule changes adopted by the Supreme Court and the statutory changes enacted by the General Assembly. I wholeheartedly agree with his assessment."

The Governor said that claims payments from Mcare dropped for the fifth straight year in 2008 and are more than 50 percent less than when he took office in 2003. In 2008, Mcare paid approximately $174 million in claims.

He also pointed to the declining cost of malpractice insurance and its availability as signs of improvement. Over the past three years, the two largest commercial medical malpractice insurers, PMSLIC and MedPro, have either decreased their base premiums or kept them flat each year.

Those reductions are in sharp contrast to 2002, when PMSLIC increased its rates an average of 40 percent and Med Pro 45 percent and to 2003, when PMSLIC increased rates another 54 percent and MedPro an additional 16 percent.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Joint Underwriter Association, the insurer of last resort, decreased rates an average 4.4 percent from 2008. Currently, fewer than 800 health care providers are using the JUA, which is half the number reported in 2003. That means doctors who were previously insured by the JUA have been able to find coverage in the private market.

There are other indications of success resulting from the reforms, such as renewed interest by companies that want to sell medical malpractice insurance in Pennsylvania. Fifty-seven newly licensed entities are writing medical malpractice coverage since April of 2002, giving doctors greater choice of insurers.

According to Mcare, the number of physicians for whom medical malpractice coverage was purchased increased from 2000 through 2009. More than 37,000 physicians are currently reporting that they have medical malpractice coverage, which is a very good indicator of the number of physicians practicing in Pennsylvania.

"I am very encouraged by these signs of improvement and am committed to making sure they continue so that the number of physicians practicing in Pennsylvania not only remains constant as it has in past few years, but that it will grow.

"That's why as part of my budget proposal to expand the number of uninsured adults receiving insurance through our adultBasic program, I also proposed phasing-out the Mcare program as the physicians have long wanted and using approximately $1 billion in public funds to pay the unfunded liability so that cost does not fall on the shoulders of our physicians."

Health care providers in Pennsylvania are required to carry $1 million worth of medical malpractice insurance -- the first $500,000 from a commercial insurance company and the second $500,000 from Mcare. Hospitals must carry more coverage.

The Rendell administration is committed to creating a first-rate public education system, protecting our most vulnerable citizens and continuing economic investment to support our communities and businesses. To find out more about Governor Rendell's initiatives and to sign up for his weekly newsletter, visit his Web site at:

    CONTACT: Chuck Ardo

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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