Pennsylvania Physicians Concerned About Renewal of Medical Malpractice Insurance Subsidy Program

Physicians in Pennsylvania are concerned that the state’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error fund, which provides doctors with subsidies for malpractice insurance, could expire this year as lawmakers debate changes to the state’s health care system, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

Gov. Ed Rendell (D) and state House Democrats have refused to renew the abatement program until the Republican-controlled state Senate agrees on a plan to expand health coverage to more state residents. Meanwhile, state Senate Republicans have said they will not reauthorize the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council until the abatement fund issue is resolved. MCARE is scheduled to expire in November.

Physicians across the state have expressed concern that if the abatement program is not renewed before lawmakers adjourn for the fall recess, the program’s expiration could lead to permanent malpractice insurance premium increases. Chuck Moran, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, said, “We’re not certain what would happen, but there is the ever-present threat that doctors might leave the state in favor of places with lower insurance premiums,” adding, “For (independent) physicians, it comes down to simple business math.”

Chuck Ardo, a spokesperson for Rendell, said, “We certainly believe that the MCARE extension should be done, but also believe that uninsured Pennsylvanians deserve as much consideration from the commonwealth as do doctors,” adding, “If we can add a 25-cent levy on cigarettes to benefit doctors, we can certainly add an additional dime, and tax cigars and smokeless tobacco, to benefit the uninsured” (Toland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16).

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