Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell on Tuesday afternoon signed a bill calling for $220 million in subsidies for Mcare, the state run physicians' supplemental malpractice insurance program, Rendell's office confirms.
After months of delay, the Pennsylvania Senate passed the subsidy for doctors' payments to the state Mcare program on Saturday, and the House passed the bill on Monday night.
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. In addition, the state would pay half the Mcare bill for all other physicians.
Rendell's office says the cost would be funded by a 25-cent hike in the state cigarette tax.
Doctors have already received a notice in the mail that they must pay their full Mcare premiums by Dec. 31. Officials at the Pennsylvania Medical Society tell Modern Physician that it is not clear whether doctors can ignore that notice or whether they will have to pay by the deadline and then apply for a rebate.
Experts on the bill in the governor's office were not available for comment.
In a release, the medical society applauds the bill, saying, "Without this relief, physicians would have been forced to leave in droves, creating even bigger holes in patients' access to care."
But the society adds that this is only "short-term relief" and the group would like the Legislature to pass a cap on noneconomic damages, which also needs a constitutional amendment.
The Pennsylvania House passed the cap, but the measure "sits in the Senate Judiciary Committee," the medical society says.