Governor Rendell: Pennsylvania Sees Significant Improvements in Medical Malpractice Climate

October 5, 2010

Mcare Payouts Drop 61 Percent; Serious Cases Fall 44 Percent since 2003

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Governor Edward G. Rendell today announced significant improvements in Pennsylvania’s medical malpractice climate, as evidenced by a 61-percent decrease in Mcare fund pay-outs since 2003 – now at the lowest level in 19 years – and the number of Mcare claims dropping 44 percent since 2003.

Mcare, the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund, provides the catastrophic level of insurance coverage to medical providers.

“We have great news for doctors, patients, insurers and our health care systems,” Governor Rendell said. “The number of catastrophic malpractice cases being filed for more than a half a million dollars in damages has nearly been cut in half in the past eight years. And the amount of the money paid out for these expensive lawsuits has dropped by 61 percent, and is now at the lowest point in 19 years.

“And the best news of all is that it means that our doctors will pay 18 percent less, on average, for Mcare coverage in 2011 than they paid this year, which is 64 percent less than they paid in 2002.

“This tells me that all of the key players — the courts, health care systems and doctors — have done a terrific job implementing the reforms we proposed when I took office in 2003.”

Eight years ago, Pennsylvania, like many states, was facing a medical liability insurance crisis. Insurance premiums had risen sharply and physicians and hospitals said the challenge of finding and paying for med mal insurance coverage would compromise patient’s access to care since medical providers and specialists would no longer practice.

The Governor pointed to several positive signs that the medical malpractice crisis was stemmed:

  • The drop in the cost for Mcare coverage mirrors the drop in the primary level of coverage doctors must purchase in the private market. Those rates have dropped by more than 20 percent since 2003.
  • The reforms have stimulated a more competitive private insurance market. There are 21 more insurance carriers writing coverage today than there were in 2002 and most of them are taking on new clients, opposed to 2002 when few of them were taking on new risk.
  • According to Mcare, the number of physicians who purchased med mal coverage increased from 2000 through 2009. More than 38,000 physicians are currently reporting that they have medical malpractice coverage, which is a reliable indicator of the number of physicians practicing in Pennsylvania.

Since 2002, the administration has worked with the General Assembly and the court system to implement reforms.

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.” Additionally, the courts have improved data gathering and the speed of legal resolutions.

Also, the Patient Safety Authority was established in 2002 and focuses on instructing patients and consumers on what they can do to prevent medical errors.

“At the end of the day, working with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, we passed reforms that augmented the good work of Act 13. This good news today is a reminder to our citizens that working together – across parties – is the only way we can solve problems. The Democrats and Republicans in this building took that exact approach and together, we solved this problem,” the Governor added.

    Media contacts:
    Rosanne Placey or Melissa Fox, Insurance; 717-787-3289
    Gary Tuma, Governor's Office; 717-783-1116

Editor’s Note – Below is a historical comparison of Mcare claim payments:

                                        Number of Claims
    Year           Payment Amounts      Paid
    2000                 $341,344,227                  699
    2001                 $321,669,132                  692
    2002                 $348,047,730                  674
    2003                 $378,720,770                  701
    2004                 $320,339,689                  620
    2005                 $232,588,740                  471
    2006                 $209,522,349                  423
    2007                 $191,365,811                  422
    2008                 $173,892,874                  377
    2009                 $178,236,910                  396
    2010                 $146,484,944                  329

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

Source: newswire

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