Pennsylvania Governor Tries To Push Cover All Pennsylvanians

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PennsylvaniaGov. Ed Rendell (D) has said he will not approve medical malpractice subsidiesfor physicians until state lawmakers agree to fund the Cover All Pennsylvaniansprogram, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports (Fahy/Barnes, PittsburghPost-Gazette, 1/13).

Rendell's new funding plan would use half of the revenue from the state'sHealth Care Provider Retention Account, which is projected to reach $414million by Dec. 31. The account, funded by 25 cents of the state's$1.35-per-pack cigarette tax, was created to offset medical malpractice costsfor physicians and hospitals in an effort to keep doctors and specialists inthe state.

Accordingto Rendell, fewer malpractice lawsuits and lower malpractice insurance premiumshave led to a surplus in the account that the state can afford to use. Rendellalso would pay for the coverage expansion through a 10-cents-per-pack increasein the state cigarette tax, which would generate an estimated $65 millionannually, and a first-time tax on the sale of cigars and smokeless tobacco, whichcould generate $50 million annually. He also would use $40 million from a fundthat pays for the care of people involved in catastrophic automobile accidents (KaiserDaily Health Policy Report,12/11/07).

If lawmakers do not reach an agreement by March 31 -- when the subsidies,called abatements, expire -- physicians would have to pay hundreds to tens ofthousands of dollars more for medical malpractice insurance. Rendell hasproposed extending the abatements for 10 years, but only if funds are allocatedfor Cover All Pennsylvanians.

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State Sen. Don White (R) said Rendell is "holding doctors and hospitalshostage" while he tries to force the Legislature to approve funding forthe plan. Rendell has said that he is willing to consider other fundingproposals but that action needs to be taken. The governor also said he wouldcampaign against lawmakers who do not endorse extending health coverage to theuninsured (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/13).

Analysis

The Post-Gazette on Thursday examined the escalating battleover Rendell's plan, which "carries political dangers for both Democratsand Republicans in the Legislature." According to the Post-Gazette,"For Democrats, there is the risk of voting for higher taxes in a yearwhen they're running for re-election." The Post-Gazettereports, "Republicans also face a political risk by opposing Mr. Rendell'splan to extend health insurance to those without it" by seeming"unconcerned about low-income people who are either unemployed orunderemployed, who have 'pre-existing health conditions'" (Barnes, PittsburghPost-Gazette, 1/17).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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