- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

ANNAPOLIS — The Ehrlich administration is ready to release state funds that will be used to reduce malpractice-insurance premiums for many physicians and surgeons, nearly five months after the General Assembly enacted legislation to reduce premiums for doctors in high-risk specialties.

Budget Secretary James “Chip” DiPaula Jr. said yesterday he and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, were prepared to sign off on a request for funding from State Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr.

The money will be used to hold premium increases to a maximum of 5 percent instead of the 33 percent that was planned by the company that insures most Maryland doctors.

“That will certainly be good news for physicians’ offices, many of which are feeling quite squeezed,” said T. Michael Preston, executive director of the Maryland State Medical Society.

Third quarter bills from Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland are expected to go out next week, and lawmakers have been pressuring the Ehrlich administration to release the money so the reduction in premiums could be included in the May bills.

Legislation to provide a $27 million subsidy to hold the line on premium increases was approved at a special session of the General Assembly in December.

Mr. Ehrlich, who had wanted more substantial changes in laws regulating malpractice suits, vetoed the bill, but the veto was overridden by the legislature in January.

Top Democratic lawmakers said Mr. Redmer was delaying approval of the funding because of Mr. Ehrlich’s discontentment with the legislature’s refusal to approve the bill he introduced.

“All they’ve been doing is make excuses about why it hasn’t been done and why it can’t be done,” said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery County Democrat.

Mr. Redmer had taken the position that the money would not be available until the law takes effect July 1, and Mr. Frosh said General Assembly leaders had to take the initiative to get an opinion from the state attorney general that the money could be released before July 1.

“They could have made the request in March, when we passed the bill. They’ve had lots of time to get this done,” Mr. Frosh said.

Mr. Redmer denied there had been any intentional delay and said employees in his office “did a terrific job of creating a process that will allow this to be done quickly and correctly.”

He said the law specified the state could not provide the money until he got a request for funds from the insurance company, and “that came last Monday or Tuesday.”

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