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Judge orders state to repay $233,747,081 to Fund

Release Date: July 21, 2011
Contact: Lisa Hildebrand - 608.442.3765 lisa.hildebrand@wismed.org

Madison, Wis. (July 21, 2011) – Dane County Circuit Court Judge Julie Genovese today entered an order requiring the state of Wisconsin to pay $233,747,081.35 to the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund (Fund). Judge Genovese’s order is the final step in resolving all remaining issues in the lawsuit following the Supreme Court’s ruling one year ago that the state unlawfully took $200 million from the Fund in 2007 to help balance the state’s budget.

“We are extremely pleased that the State has agreed to make the Injured Patients and Families Compensation Fund whole in the next three months rather than extending the obligation into 2012,” said Society President George M. Lange, MD, FACP. “The integrity of the Fund and the stability of the state’s medical liability system benefit all Wisconsin patients and physicians.”

Judge Genovese’s order, issued pursuant to a stipulation of the parties, obligates the state to return the $200 million taken along with $33,747,081.35 in lost earnings and interest by October 1, 2011. This is several months before the June 30, 2012, date designated in 2011 Wisconsin Act 27, which Gov. Scott Walker signed into law on June 15, 2011.

“The Society is especially grateful to its esteemed legal team led by Thomas Pyper and Cynthia Buchko of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek SC for its outstanding work and the Society’s Board of Directors for its unwavering commitment to this important case,” Dr. Lange added. The Society also is grateful for the steadfast support it received from state and national health care organizations, county medical societies and individuals throughout the litigation.

The Society filed suit in October 2007 following enactment of legislation that took $200 million from the Fund to help balance the state’s budget. The Society appealed a Dane County Circuit Court decision upholding the raid, and the Court of Appeals requested that the Supreme Court accept the case. David Hoffmann, MD, a family medicine physician from Mauston joined the lawsuit as an individual plaintiff.“The Fund is critical to maintaining the high quality of Wisconsin’s health care system,” Dr. Hoffman said. “It is a stabilizing influence on the recruitment and retention of quality health care professionals, which leads to better access to health care for patients – a critical issue for many rural and inner-city residents.”

In a 5-2 decision July 20, 2010, the Supreme Court determined that the raid of the Fund was unconstitutional. In its decision, the Court remanded the case to the trial court for the entry of an order requiring the state to replace the money taken from the Fund together with lost earnings and interest. The Court also ordered the trial court to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the state from transferring money out of the Fund in the future.

With nearly 12,500 members dedicated to the best interests of their patients, the Wisconsin Medical Society is the largest association of medical doctors in the state and a trusted source for health policy leadership since 1841.