Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich on Friday called for a special legislative session after Christmas to deal with the “most important issue in the state of Maryland” — medical malpractice insurance.
The governor’s announcement came after a series of meetings with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch on ways to deal with problems in the health care industry brought about by rising malpractice insurance premiums.
The three leaders said some issues remain to be settled, but they agree on most of what needs to be done to avoid huge premium increases that some doctors say are driving them out of business.
One key area of disagreement is how the state will finance a fund that would be created to protect the state’s largest insurer against future potential losses if a rollback is ordered of the 33 percent average premium increase due by the end of December.
“But the bottom line is that we are at enough of a degree of agreement that it’s time to bring the members in,” Ehrlich said. ‘”The members will be briefed over the forthcoming days, and we will get it done.”
Ehrlich said hearings on the bill he is preparing will be held Dec. 27; the special session will begin Dec. 28. It would be the first special session of the General Assembly since 1992, when lawmakers were called back to deal with budget deficits.
Dr. Karl Riggle, who heads a statewide physicians’ group, said he was eager to hear the details. “This is a complex issue, and ultimately, the contents of the agreement are what’s most important,” he said.
The fund that would protect Maryland Medical Liability Insurance Society, the state’s largest insurer, is intended as a temporary program to hold down rates while other reforms of medical malpractice laws take effect. Proponents of malpractice reform are pushing for restricting lawsuits, which they say would end the rapid premium increases of the last three years.
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