(Previous Issues)

August 30, 2002

Medical Malpractice Update
Physician General objects to work stoppage.
Special Session on Medical Liability urged by legislators.
Suit filed to overturn Joint and Several Liability Reform law.
House committee considers State-run Medical Liability Fund.
New insurance options emerge.

Federal News
Congress returns.
Nurse law funding urged.
HHS names members to Council on Public Health Preparedness.

Medical Malpractice Update
Physician General objects to work stoppage. Physician General Robert S. Muscalus, D.O., cautioned that a call for a work stoppage by a group of state physicians could have an adverse effect on the health of Pennsylvania's citizens. Organizers from the politically active Physician's Association were asked to close their doors from August 25th to August 31st and attend a conference designed to force quicker medical liability reforms.

Special Session on Medical Liability urged by legislators. Three Bucks county lawmakers, Chuck McIlhinney, Paul Clymer, and Kathy Watson, have called for a special session of the General Assembly to examine reforming the medical liability insurance system. The legislators are circulating a petition among their colleagues ordering the governor to convene a special session on medical malpractice insurance reform. According to the Pennsylvania Constitution, if they garner signatures from a majority of the legislators in both the House and the Senate, Governor Mark Schweiker must comply with the petition.

Suit filed to overturn Joint and Several Liability Reform law. House Minority Leader H. William DeWeese (D-Greene) and Minority Whip Mike Veon (D-Beaver) have asked Commonwealth Court to declare the medical liability reform bill recently passed unconstitutional. Act 57 of 2002 would hold defendants responsible only for their share of the damage of harm done to a plaintiff. Democratic leaders claim lawmakers did not follow constitutional procedures when they passed the bill.

House committee considers State-run Medical Liability Fund. Representative Thomas Tangretti is sponsoring H.B. 2645 that would keep the Medical Professional Liability Catastrophe Loss Fund, commonly known as the CAT Fund, under state control. At an Insurance Committee hearing last week, Tangretti urged colleagues to rethink their earlier decision to privatize the state insurance fund that covers doctors and other medical professionals. The Hospital and Health System Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), the Pennsylvania Medical Society (PMS), and the Insurance Federation all testified against the bill stating it would likely lead to a state monopoly and further drive private carriers from the commonwealth.

New insurance options emerge. In an effort to fill the void left when some private malpractice insurance insurers withdrew from the Market, Duane Morris is backing the Pennsylvania Health Care Providers' Insurance Exchange. If approved, the exchange would be similar to a mutual insurer, where members in effect, cover one another. It hopes to begin signing up doctors in the fall for policies that would take effect next year. In addition, orthopedic surgeons in the southeast are launching a risk-retention group aimed at members of their specialty.

Federal News
Congress returns. Congress is scheduled to return September 4, and will most likely operate on a truncated schedule due to November elections.

Nurse law funding urged. Representatives Ed Whitefield (R-KY) and Lois Capps (D-CA) are urging their colleagues to sign a letter that asks House appropriators to fund the Nurse Reinvestment Act (P.L. 107-205). The law establishes hospital grants for nurse retention, a national nurse service corps scholarship program, and comprehensive geriatric training grants for nurses. It also calls for a multimedia campaign to promote the image of nursing, career ladder grants, and loan repayment programs. UPHS has urged the Pennsylvania delegation to support of funding through the programs.

HHS names members to Council on Public Health Preparedness. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson named 21 members of the Secretary's Council on Public Health Preparedness. The council will advise the department on appropriate actions to prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, including acts of bioterrorism. The council will be chaired by D.A. Henderson, M.D., the Secretary's principal science advisor for public health preparedness. The first meeting will took place August 26th-27th, and includes such topics as bioterrorism preparedness and response programs, states' preparedness programs, lessons learned from last fall's anthrax mail attacks, research and development efforts, development of new products related to bioterrorism, and public health emergency response planning.

The Government Relations Weekly Update is provided by the Office of Government Relations of the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Shelly Krycia or Alan N. Rosenberg
Government Relations Office
University of Pennsylvania Health System
2021 Penn Tower/4385
Phone: 215-349-5136
Fax: 215-662-3910

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