New loan rate for Pennsylvania doctors who require med-mal insurance

Pittsburgh Business Times

The Pennsylvania Medical Society has created a special-rate loan for Pennsylvania Medical Society members to help ease the financial hardships some physicians face in paying for malpractice insurance, the group said Tuesday.

Doctors are required to carry malpractice insurance and the state has helped pay part of the premiums for years. But Gov. Ed Rendell has refused to extend the state’s coverage without improved health care coverage for the uninsured, legislation that passed the House last month but faces stiff opposition in the Senate.

The standoff means doctors must pay the full cost of malpractice insurance starting Tuesday. The medical society’s loan program is available through PNC Bank, which is offering a limited time, one-year unsecured loan in amounts between $10,000 and $100,000 and at a fixed rate of 6.75 percent.

“We’re like the pickle in the middle on the issue between the administration and Senate Republicans,” said Dr. Peter Lund, an Erie urologist who is president of the Pennsylvania Medical Society. “We support the House bill in its concept; the only problem is how physicians and hospitals would be reimbursed under the Access to Basic Care plan.”

The stalemate over the state’s premium abatement program means North Side-based Triangle Urology Associates will pay $45,000 more annually for malpractice coverage, according to Dr. Jeffrey Cohen. The total cost for the coverage for 10 doctors in the practice is $325,000.

The high cost is partly because of two kidney transplant specialists in the practice, he said. Triangle, which was founded in 1926, is considering asking Allegheny General Hospital to help offset malpractice expenses if the state continues to withhold its help.

Cohen worries that the issue is being driven by Rendell’s aspirations to be considered a candidate for vice president in the Clinton administration or perhaps a Cabinet appointment.

“This is what the Clinton health care program is going to look like,” Cohen said. “Physicians are going to become the General Motors factory workers.

“It appears the governor is being pushed by motives other than the poor, sick children of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”

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