Evaluating malpractice reforms that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell proposed Monday, Pennsylvania physician groups say they are pleased with the short-term subsidies for malpractice premiums but disappointed about the lack of a cap on noneconomic damages.
Besides the premium subsidies outlined in the proposal, released on Monday, "everything else is of no value," says James Tayoun, D.O., president of Politically Active Physicians Association, a Philadelphia group that is campaigning for malpractice reforms.
The state subsidies would cover all or part of the payments that Pennsylvania physicians must make to an unusual state-run insurance program, called MCARE, which supplements their commercial malpractice coverage.
Through 2005, Rendell proposes that the state pay the entire MCARE contribution for practicing surgeons, obstetricians, orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons, and pay half the MCARE contribution for all other physicians.
The MCARE contribution is worth about one-third of the base premium that physicians pay commercial malpractice carriers, meaning that premiums for a general surgeon in Philadelphia would fall from $108,000 to $72,500, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
But Tayoun notes that after 2006, physicians' malpractice payments would rise again to one of the highest levels in the country.
Also, the governor did not mention how he was going to pay for the subsidy, and Tayoun says he hopes that it won't be paid with a tax on patients' visits, as Rendell has proposed before. "We're absolutely against that," he says.
Chuck Moran, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Medical Society, provided a short response to the governor's plan in advance of a formal statement that was still being finalized by medical society executives.
"We recognize that the governor has recommended some good things, but we still want caps on noneconomic damages," he says.