An important court decision keeps alive a stabilizing force in Pennsylvania's medical liability insurance market for physicians in high-risk specialties.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society played a supporting role in a decision announced May 17, 2018, that essentially blocks the state from seizing $200 million from the Pennsylvania Professional Liability Joint Underwriting Association (JUA).
Last October, when trying to balance its budget, state lawmakers and Gov. Wolf signed into law Act 44, which, among other things, would have required the JUA to hand over $200 million to the state or face abolishment.
The transfer never took place, as the JUA obtained a preliminary injunction from U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Conner. PAMED submitted an amicus brief to the federal court in support of the JUA's complaint and motion for injunction.
In his decision, Judge Conner ruled that the state’s attempt to take money from the JUA – a private, non-profit organization – violates the federal Constitution.
He wrote, “(The JUA) is a private entity, and monies in its possession are private property. Act 44 endeavors to take a substantial portion of [the JUA’s] funds…[and] fails to provide any compensation whatsoever.” Judge Connor also acknowledged that the JUA “has a perceptible benefit: it assures availability of medical professional liability coverage throughout the commonwealth at no public cost.”
The JUA was created by state law in 2002 to provide liability insurance for physicians in high-risk specialties. However, the JUA receives no money from the Commonwealth and never has.
PAMED believes that monies paid to the JUA by physicians and other health care providers should be used for the intended purpose of insuring against liability arising from medical professional liability claims.