In some good news for Pennsylvania physicians, Governor Ed Rendell announced that there has been a 61% decrease in medical malpractice fund payouts since 2003, meaning that liability insurance for physicians is dropping as well.

“We have great news for doctors, patients, insurers and our health care systems,” Rendell said. “The number of catastrophic malpractice cases being filed for more than a half a million dollars in damages has nearly been cut in half in the past eight years. And the amount of the money paid out for these expensive lawsuits … is now at the lowest point in 19 years. And the best news of all is that it means that our doctors will pay 18% less, on average, for Mcare coverage in 2011 than they paid this year, which is 64% less than they paid in 2002.” [Mcare is the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund, which provides catastrophic insurance coverage for physicians.]

In 2002, Pennsylvania was facing a medical malpractice liability crisis. In an effort to address this, the state enacted several malpractice reforms including:

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  • A certificate of merit requirement to try to reduce the number of cases without merit. Potential plaintiffs need to get a certificate of merit establishing that the medical procedures in the case fell below applicable standards of care in order to proceed with the case.
  • Medical malpractice actions must take place in the venue in which the cause of action took place. This requirement eliminated the common practice of “venue shopping,” where plaintiffs would file lawsuits in venues believed to be more favorable.
  • The Patient Safety Authority was created in 2002 to teach patients and consumers about how to avoid medical errors.