(Previous Issues)

March 11, 2004

Medical Liability
Senate passes SB 9, but without Corman amendment.
United States Senate unable to move effort to cap non-economic jury awards.

Federal News
Senate and House considering Medicaid cuts.
Elected or public official coming to campus?

State News
Trauma Stabilization Act expected to be voted on next week in Senate.
Departmental Budget Hearings held last week.

Medical Liability
Senate passes SB 9, but without Corman amendment. By a vote of 30 to 20 early Wednesday morning, the Pennsylvania Senate passed Senate Bill 9 with an amendment by Senator Rhoades. The amendment passed with a slightly smaller majority than the bill itself. As amended, SB 9 provides for a constitutional amendment that limits non-economic damages only in medical liability cases, without exceptions and with no dollar limit specified. The hospital, physician and business coalition had supported Senator Corman's amendment that would not have limited caps to medical liability cases only. Nevertheless, we are pleased that SB 9 passed without any dollar limits or exceptions that would have weakened the proposal.

As the bill that passed differs from the previously adopted House version, SB 9 will now go to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Assuming both houses can agree on a compromise this session, the bill would still have to be passed again by each house next session and would then go on the ballot at the next election. Should the voters approve the amendment in a public referendum, only then would the General Assembly consider legislation to cap non-economic damages. In sum, this was an important step even if not precisely the desired outcome. We will certainly thank those Senators that voted in favor of this proposal to move forward this measure. As this issue was going to press the official roll call had not yet been released, however, if you would like a copy upon release please contact our office. The focus of our advocacy efforts will now shift back to the State House as it considers SB 9.

The Senate also passed a resolution (Resolution 160) calling for the Joint State Government Commission to study possible alternatives to the current medical liability system.

United States Senate unable to move effort to cap non-economic jury awards. Last week, the United States Senate considered a bill that would have imposed a $250,000 cap on jury awards for pain and suffering in medical liability cases against obstetricians and gynecologists. As broader medical liability reform measures had not passed previously in the Senate, Senate republican leadership attempted to move this narrower ob-only bill instead. Falling 12 votes short of the 60 votes needed to proceed, the Senate failed to invoke a cloture motion (the formal procedure used to end a filibuster). Senator Santorum was critical in moving this bill forward and both Senators Specter and Santorum voted in favor of cloture in an effort to take action on the bill itself and we are appreciative of their support. We expect a series of similar bills to be introduced this session.

Federal News
Senate and House considering Medicaid cuts. Last night Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) successfully offered a floor amendment to the Senate FY 2005 Budget resolution. Last week the Senate budget committee reported out a marked-up budget resolution that recommends a total of $11 billion in Medicaid spending reductions over the next five years. The amendment eliminated the resolution's reconciliation instructions requiring the Senate Finance Committee to cut billions to various programs under the committee's jurisdiction, including Medicaid. The amendment passed 53-43.

Mark -up of the House FY 2005 budget is expected this week. Hospital and physician advocacy groups and associations are united in their opposition to these cuts. We are assessing the impact on the Health System of these cuts.

Elected or public official coming to campus? We are available to help you coordinate with elected or appointed officials for meetings on, or visits to, campus. It is useful for our office to be aware of events on campus that involve elected or appointed officials at all levels of government. It affords us the opportunity, when appropriate, to try and maximize the time on campus for other meetings or discussions. We would appreciate notification prior to any event if possible when elected or appointed officials are involved or invited. If you have questions or know of any future engagements please contact our office.

State News
Trauma Stabilization Act expected to be voted on next week in Senate. A final vote is expected as early as Monday of next week. The newly signed 2004 budget includes $12.5 million for trauma center funding. However, that funding is contingent upon passage the bill. If passed it would require the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) to distribute disproportionate share payments to accredited Pennsylvania Trauma Centers in order to assure available and coordinated trauma care. HUP's trauma center would be one of the centers slated to receive additional funding. We continue to press members of our delegation to support this bill.

Departmental Budget Hearings held last week. Secretary Dr. Calvin Johnson was questioned by both the House and Senate on a variety of topics including newborn screening, Patient Safety Authority, addiction and treatment, and work force issues. In addition, he also stated that he plans to send a report to Governor Rendell outlining his recommendations concerning emergency medical services and the potential move to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. For a more detailed report of the hearings please contact our office.

If you have any questions or need additional information on the items included in this Update, please contact our office.

Shelly Krycia or Alan N. Rosenberg
Government Relations Office
University of Pennsylvania Health System
2021 Penn Tower/4385
Phone: 215-349-5136 (Shelly)
215-662-2271 (Alan)

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