22 January 2008

PA Gov Aims To Fund Coverage for Uninsured

There's politicking going on in Pennsylvania as Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell has threatened to fund his plan to offer more affordable health care to nearly 800,000 uninsured adults by tapping into a $400 million state fund that helps doctors pay their malpractice insurance costs.

Time out. There's a state fund for comparatively wealthy physicians to cover the depredations of the insurance industry, but not for the working poor -- for whom it's a matter of life and death? Don't get me wrong, the cost of malpractice insurance is another example of the insurance industry run amok. But the fact that the state stepped in to help the doctors does show the relative strength of concern for physicians vs. for the working class. And how com the Right continues to argue that malpractice costs are part of the reason for high medical costs in the U.S., if there are, evidently, state funds helping out?

Here's a 2005 pdf report that shows that
  • Over the last five years the amount the major medical malpractice insurers have collected in premiums has more than doubled, while their claims payouts have remained essentially flat.
  • Some malpractice insurers substantially increased their premiums while both their claims payments and their projected future claims payments were decreasing.
  • Malpractice insurers accumulated record amounts of surplus over the last three years.
Back to the governor -- a year ago he introduced Cover All Pennsylvanians. The single-payer movement in Pennsylvania was frustrated by that plan, because although Rendell has said he'd sign a single-payer bill if it passed the Legislature, instead he put forward his own plan, which does nothing to rein in costs. Those following the Pennsylvania reform effort call Rendell's bill "No Health Insurance Company Left Behind," and note that "Capital Blue Cross’s CEO, Anita Smith, was standing at Rendell’s side when he introduced his bill." Oddly enough, Pennsylvania lawmakers "showed little interest in helping to fund it with a tax on businesses that did not offer health insurance to workers."
The state's doctors could pay a price if no agreement is reached soon. The governor has declined to approve medical malpractice subsidies, known as abatements, through the state's MCare program until lawmakers agree to fund Cover All Pennsylvanians. If no deal is struck by March 31, the unsubsidized bills will come due.
Furthermore, the governor has pledged to campaign against Republican legislators in the fall, if they continue to balk.

The response seems to be a GOP yawn and shrug.

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