- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 15, 2004

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Doctors, insurers and lawmakers are working to contain the skyrocketing cost of medical malpractice insurance, which is driving some doctors out of business and leaving residents without access to health care.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, said he is “willing to look at any idea that leads to a bottom-line result.”

Insurance industry leaders presented a plan last week to Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, and are expected to submit it to Mr. Ehrlich tomorrow.

A state Senate commission also met in Annapolis this week on the issue.

Mr. Busch called the insurance industry’s plan “a stopgap measure” that would call on the state to assume the costs if malpractice judgments rise so much that insurers cannot afford to keep rates steady.

Mr. Busch said the plan would rely, at least in part, on a special fund administered by the state’s insurance commissioner. The fund could be fed by a tax on health maintenance organizations, an approach the governor does not support.

Medical malpractice reform was Mr. Ehrlich’s top priority during the legislative session this year, but his proposal to limit court awards to malpractice victims was rejected by the Senate.

Mr. Busch said he had concerns about a state fund.

“The problem I have with it is really what you’re doing is asking the state to underwrite both the doctors and the trial bar,” Mr. Busch said.

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