Pennsylvania’s Governor Edward Rendell claims that the medical malpractice crisis declared in 2002 is now over within his state. If that seems unlikely, your intuition is working well. The reason for the declaration? The governor wants to stop paying out one billion dollars per year to subsidize the cost of medical malpractice insurance claims. But the money’s still being spent, whether the Governor declares the crisis over or not.
Some medical malpractice reforms within the state are relatively minor (such as the case being tried within the county where the alleged malpractice was said to have occurred.) Others, like the requirement of a Certificate of Merit, may reduce court caseload burden, but still don’t diminish payouts on the 25% of the cases that are legit.
The governor cites that the number of cases filed (and costs) is dropping, but there’s no direct cause-and-effect relationship between that statistic and the measures taken. Even if there was, that would suggest keeping the measures that are working, including the supplementing funds.
That premium costs have been flat for the past 3 years from two providers does not suggest that the supplements are no longer needed. Removing them is certain to increase those premiums, as carriers absorb the higher-risk healthcare providers (assuming that the Penn. state Joint Underwriter Association funding ceases.)
In a press conference, Governor Rendell stated “Doctors got $1 billion from the state of Pennsylvania. There is no state that comes close to that.” That may be true and respectable, but doctors didn’t get the money. The state put those funds out there to keep physicians in the state by reducing malpractice overhead. The state of Pennsylvania also got thousands of doctors to remain. It was mutually beneficial, and the funds continue to be necessary. Withdrawing the funding will mean that physicians will be expected to pull it out of their own pockets again. If Pennsylvania elects to withdraw their support of the physicians and other healthcare workers in that state, it should come as no surprise if the physicians — especially those in high-risk specialties — withdraw their support and presence as well.