Members of the Coalition for Patients Rights (CPR) will visit with Maryland Legislators in the coming weeks to voice their support for Senate Bills 544, 545 and 546 that recently were introduced. The bills reportedly identify realistic and achievable solutions to curb the rising costs of medical malpractice insurance.
SB 545, introduced by Senate President Mike Miller, Jr. joined by 12 co-sponsors, would more evenly spread the risk of malpractice insurance, providing rate relief to obstetricians, the specialty currently paying the highest rates. Employing a method called rate compression, the bill would require insurance companies to spread rate increases across the board for all physicians.
Today, some malpractice insurers – including medical mutual of Maryland, the state’s largest – reportedly charge ob-gyn’s as much as 13 times what they charge many of their other doctors. By reducing this rate differential, Miller’s bill would reduce ob-gyn rates by 40 percent – or $46,368 for an experienced obstetrician in Baltimore insured by Medical Mutual – while raising rates for doctors who today pay very low premiums by less than 1 percent of their gross income. Joining Miller as co-sponsors are Senators Britt, Currie, Frosh, Gianetti, Grosfeld, Hollinger, Kelley, Klausmeier, McFadden, Middleton, Pinsky and Stone.
“Insurance should spread risk, not concentrate risk,” said Jay Angoff, former Missouri Insurance Commissioner and currently an adviser to the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association. “Senator Miller’s bill spreads the cost of malpractice more equitably across all doctors, rather than forcing ob-gyn’s to pay an unreasonably high percentage of that cost, as they do under Medical Mutual’s current rating system.”
A second bill introduced by Miller, SB 546 would create a People’s Counsel to serve as an independent watchdog to guard the interest of the public in matters of insurance rate increases.
Under this bill, the People’s Counsel would have the right to intervene on the public’s behalf, essentially become a participant in the discussion, any time an insurance company sought a rate increase over 10 percent. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Astle, Britt, Currie, Della, Forehand, Frosh, Garagiola, Gianetti, Gladden, Grosfeld, Hogan, Hollinger, Kelley, Klausmeier, McFadden, Middleton, Pinsky, Stone, and Teitelbaum.
The third bill, SB 544, introduced by Senator Brian Frosh, would create a tax credit for doctors if their malpractice premiums exceed 14 percent of their gross incomes.
A series of hearings on these Senate bills will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 25 in Annapolis at 1 p.m. in the Senate Finance Committee in the Miller Senate Office Building.
The Coalition for Patients’ Rights (CPR) is a grass roots effort formed to give voice to victims of medical malpractice, along with consumers and those representing and supporting victims to challenge the movement to limit the amount of money that victims are entitled to recover.
A recent report by Public Citizen reportedly shows a decline in OB/GYN lawsuits and medical malpractice payouts between 1991 and 2002.
* The number of medical malpractice payouts made by OB/GYNs declined 13 percent from 1991 to 2002, dropping from 1,303 to 1,129. Moreover, the number of payouts declined 22 percent from 2001 to 2002 – the peak of the malpractice “crisis.”
* The median malpractice payout made to individuals by OB/GYNs declined by 9 percent from 1991 to 2002 when adjusted for medical inflation. In 1991, the median obstetrics malpractice payout in the U.S. was $175,000. By 2002 it had risen 51 percent, to $265,000. But medical care services inflation rose by 65 percent over the same period.
* The total amount of malpractice payouts by OB/GYNs has remained nearly flat over the past decade when adjusted for medical care services inflation. In 1991 the total amount paid to settle malpractice claims against OB/GYNs in the U.S. was $326 million. In 2002 the total of malpractice payouts was $557 million. Adjusted for medical care services inflation the figure would be $336 million – a .03 percent increase. Moreover, total payouts declined by 21 percent from 2001 to 2002 (not adjusted for inflation).
For more information about Public Citizen, visit http://www.citizen.org/.
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