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High Court reviews case of reallocated malpractice funds

Doctors want the Wisconsin Supreme Court to force the state to repay millions of dollars it took from the Injured Patients Compensation Fund in 2007. In arguments before the court Thursday, a lawyer for the state said the transfer of funds was pe...

Doctors want the Wisconsin Supreme Court to force the state to repay millions of dollars it took from the Injured Patients Compensation Fund in 2007. In arguments before the court Thursday, a lawyer for the state said the transfer of funds was perfectly legal.

The Department of Administration's attorney, Charlotte Gibson, told the justices the state acted within the law when it transferred $200 million from the fund to the Medical Assistance Fund. She said the mandatory assessments doctors pay into the fund doesn't give them ownership of the money.

"Once their assessments are made, they're gone," said Gibson. "And they can't prevent the legislature from transferring monies into other state accounts if the legislature decides that that's the wisest public policy."

But Wisconsin Medical Society attorney Thomas Pyper countered that the fund was established with a specific purpose that does prevent the state from using it for anything else.

"It's there for medical malpractice," said Pyper. "For no other reason. It was not designed to be a revenue raising tool for the state."

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Doctors say if the fund is not repaid, their assessments will have to be raised. Medical Society vice president Dr. Tim Barthlow says current predictions are the fund will be in deficit within the next five years. He says the society is worried that beneficiaries wouldn't necessarily have the protection that they need.

If the court rules in favor of the doctors, the state may have to find $200 million in another part of the budget to repay the compensation fund.

Related Topics: HEALTHCARE
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