Md. Gov. Ehrlich Urges Med-Mal Action as State’s Largest Writer Seeks 41% Hike

July 2, 2004

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich has called on the legislature to pass a medical malpractice reform bill, a day after the state’s largest medical malpractice insurer filed for a 41 percent rate increase in malpractice insurance rates.

The governor said Medical Mutual’s planned increase will “push the issue over the threshold.”

Ehrlich told reporters at a news conference called at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson that indicated the General Assembly should hold a special session to deal with the crisis, but added that he’s not interested in “wasting time.’ “The General Assembly could pass a bill in one day if they can get together beforehand,” he said.

“This is about the ability of a pregnant woman to have confidence that her OB will be in practice next year,” Ehrlich said. “This is about real people.”

The concept of risk pool makes some sense, Ehrlich said.

“How we fund it is the devil in the details.”

But, he said, sending the bill to taxpayers is not an option.

Harvey Kasner, an obstetrician-gynecologist, said his seven-doctor practice is paying $600,000 in premiums this year and may be paying $800,000 next year if the rate increase is approved.

Many doctors are choosing early retirement to avoid costs and many doctors are not going into high risk specialties, said Health Secretary Nelson Sabatini.

“The health care system in this state is being put in jeopardy,” Sabatini said at the governor’s press conference Wednesday.

Medical Mutual raised its rates 28 percent last year, but warned that it might raise rates again this year if the trends didn’t change.

The actual impact of the proposed increase on doctors will be greater, because Medical Mutual is proposing to drop the usual dividend it pays back to them, Preston said. As a mutual insurance company, Medical Mutual is owned by the doctors it covers. When claims are less than projected, that money is distributed to the physicians as reductions in premiums. The dividend last yearreduced premiums by 14 percent.

The proposed rates are subject to review by the Maryland Insurance Administration and is likely to take a few months.

Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. said the filing would be reviewed by his department’s actuaries. He said he was also likely to bring in outside experts to review the numbers and to conduct a public hearing.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

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