State Senate Passes Senate Judiciary Chair Baker’s Resolution Calling for Study on Venue Rule Change > Hospital Association of Pennsylvania

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State Senate Passes Senate Judiciary Chair Baker’s Resolution Calling for Study on Venue Rule Change

February 05, 2019

Today, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lisa Baker (R-Luzerne) secured Senate approval (31-18) for her resolution to study the Supreme Court Civil Procedural Rules Committee’s proposed rule change to venue. Senate Resolution 20 directs the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) to perform a study on the impact of the proposed venue rule change on access to care and medical liability rates.

“As the new Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Senator Baker has taken the complex issue of medical liability and the venue rule change head on,” said Andy Carter, President and CEO of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. “She has respectfully and rightfully requested that the Supreme Court delay any decision about the proposed rule until after a comprehensive study is complete. We believe this a responsible approach and thank her and her Senate colleagues for their thoughtful involvement in this issue.”

Prior to 2002, Pennsylvania experienced a medical liability crisis in which liability insurers left the market, limited their insurance offerings, and experienced significant downgrades in their credit ratings. This both sharply reduced the availability of medical liability insurance to providers and left hospitals and physicians facing skyrocketing premiums. To continue to keep doors open, many hospitals were forced to reduce services. In addition, many physicians and medical residents left the commonwealth, also creating an access to care issue for patients.

For example:

  • Between 1999 and 2005, the number of obstetrics units in Pennsylvania hospitals fell 17 percent1
  • According to data from the Medical CAT Fund during 2001, physicians in active clinical practice decreased by nearly 11 percent between 1997 and 2000
  • Pennsylvania will face a deficit of approximately 1,000 primary care physicians by 2025, or about 10 percent less than the estimated primary care physicians needed to serve Pennsylvania’s population2

In response, the state legislature responded to this crisis by passing medical liability reforms including the creation of an “Interbranch Commission on Venue”.

The state legislature and the Supreme Court adopted reforms recommended by the Commission that reduced the number of frivolous and marginal malpractice claims brought in Pennsylvania, especially in Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties. This includes a rule that medical liability claims can only be filed in the county where the alleged medical error occurred.

Now, the Supreme Court Civil Procedural Rules Committee is proposing an abrupt reversal of the reforms made in 2002. HAP and the hospital community oppose the proposed rule.

For more information please contact Jeff Bechtel, HAP’s senior vice president, health economics and policy, or Stephanie Watkins, HAP’s vice president, state legislative advocacy.

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1 HAP analysis of Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Health Informatics Hospital Record data from 1999 through 2017.

2 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. 2016. State-Level Projections of Supply andDemand for Primary Care Practitioners: 2013-2025. Rockville, Maryland. Last accessed: 1/25/2019.

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