HARRISBURG – House Republican leaders today agreed with some of the findings of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee’s (LBFC) year-long study into the medical malpractice venue issue but were disappointed that the bipartisan, bicameral committee stopped short in asking for the state’s highest court to abandon its proposal to revoke the current venue rule.
House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), Majority Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) and Policy Chairman Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest) early last year took up the fight against a court rule change that would allow plaintiffs’ lawyers in medical malpractice cases to select a county in which to file the claim regardless of where the alleged action happened.
Before that venue rule was adopted, medical malpractice insurance premiums were skyrocketing, leading scores of physicians to leave the state, retire early or close up their practices altogether. The result was a lack of physicians and specialists, creating a crisis in health care across Pennsylvania. The venue rule was put in place in 2003 to address the escalating crisis.
After the LBFC report was released and accepted today, the leaders offered the following statement:
“We’re not surprised to learn that completing the study was challenging because so much has changed in health care over the past two decades. With advances in health care and consolidations of health care systems, along with other industry changes, it is difficult to statistically compare where our state was prior to 2003 and today.
“The LBFC is correct in that one change in rules and procedures may have differing consequences in different counties. As we learned with the February 2019 Policy Committee hearing on this very topic, those changes would have ripple effects on health care in Pennsylvania. Those ripple effects would undeniably lead to some areas of the state losing valuable specialists, thereby causing residents to travel long distances or wait even longer to see a doctor or receive treatment. That denies access to health care.
“The study and lack of recommendations by LBFC simply underscore our point – that any change, such as the revocation of the venue rule – would lead to uncertainty and the loss of predictability with respect to medical malpractice insurance rates and cause them to skyrocket. Therefore, we continue to echo our concerns about revoking the venue rule and respectfully ask the court’s Civil Procedural Rules Committee to keep things as they currently are. We don’t see that the system is broken, so we don’t believe an ill-advised fix is worth it.”
The LBFC report was initiated after passage of Senate Resolution 20, which was passed a year ago to study the impact of the original change brought about by the recommendation of the Interbranch Commission on venue in 2002.
Representative Donna Oberlander
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Jennifer Keaton