Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's lengthy malpractice-insurance reform package, unveiled today, does not recommend a cap on noneconomic damages, as physicians had wanted, but it proposes some changes in the legal system and some financial relief for physicians.
The proposed reforms, released in a report by Rendell's office, also call for tighter regulation of malpractice insurers, improvements in patient safety and more publication of data on physicians.
Among dozens of proposals, the Democratic governor's reforms would:
- Request the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to reduce delays in lawsuits, limit attorneys' fees in cases involving bodily harm or death and implement voluntary mediation for cases.
- Change the standards for filing a motion of remittitur, which a defense attorney can use to challenge the amount of a jury verdict.
- Eliminate payments to the state's supplemental med mal insurance fund, called MCARE, for physicians in the "top four specialties" in 2003 through 2005 and cut MCARE payments in half for other physicians in those years.
- Provide an additional $25 million a year in state funds to trauma centers.
- Increase Medicaid reimbursement payments for obstetricians delivering babies.
- Require state review of malpractice insurers' rate changes and limit rate changes to plus or minus 25%.
- Provide information to the public on physicians, including adverse licensure actions.
- Require better communication between MCARE and commercial malpractice insurers in activities such as determining settlements.
- Base state payments to providers on patient safety outcomes.
- Add six hours a year to doctors' continuing medical education requirements in patient safety.