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A Pennsylvania court ruled 4-1 that the General Assembly cannot use $808 million from the medical liability fund—funded by PA doctors and hospitals—to balance the state’s budget. The majority opinion says the money collected for the fund is not tax dollars and therefore belongs “to the provider and not generally to the Commonwealth.”
The Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering a similar case, after Governor Doyle transferred $200 million from the Patients Compensation Fund to the Medical Assistance Fund in 2007. The Wisconsin Medical Society wants the state to return the money to the fund to be used for the original purpose, medical malpractice, rather than as a “revenue raising tool for the state.” For the past two fiscal years, the fund’s balance has been negative.
In January, the New Hampshire Supreme Court also handed a victory to physicians fighting against the state government’s attempts to solve budget shortfalls by tapping into a state-created medical liability insurance fund. The court found unconstitutional a state law authorizing the transfer of $110 million from the Medical Malpractice Joint Underwriting Association to the state’s general fund. The money was to be used to expand state health care programs for underserved populations. In his FY 2010-11 budget, Governor John Lynch (D) approved this transfer of what lawmakers considered to be a surplus in the fund.