Pennsylvania doctors tonight will find out whether state officials come through with a promise to underwrite physicians' state supplemental malpractice insurance policies -- or leave them hanging with $220 million in bills that are due Dec. 31.
When Gov. Ed Rendell took office at the beginning of the year, he promised to cover at least half of part all physicians' payments to the supplemental fund, called Mcare. But hope for legislative approval faded as the state's fiscal problems grew and the state recently informed physicians of the payment deadline.
On Saturday, however, the Pennsylvania Senate approved Rendell?s payment plan, and the House is expected to vote on the plan this evening, Amy Kelchner, a spokesperson in the governor's office, tells Modern Physician.
The plan calls for state coverage over two years of all Mcare payments for obstetricians, neurosurgeons, orthopedic surgeons, general surgeons and rural family physicians who deliver babies. In addition, the state would pay half the Mcare bill for all other physicians.
Kelchner says the cost would be funded by a 25-cent hike in the state cigarette tax.
She cautions that tonight's vote is not a done deal.
Unlike the state Senate, the Pennsylvania House passed a bill earlier this year that would have capped noneconomic damages in malpractice suits. Now, Kelchner says, some House members will oppose Mcare payments until the Legislature passes a cap. She adds that at least one House member questions giving money to some well-to-do physicians who may not need a subsidy.