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October 05, 2004

Malpractice reform: Maryland

Because most of the fifteen medical malpractice insurers doing business in Maryland in 1996 have become insolvent or stopped taking new clients, Medical Mutual of Maryland insures 75% of the state's doctors. But, while the number of claims have remained the same, the number of million-dollar payouts has been increasing geometrically; the average settlement for a medical-malpractice case has risen from $216,727 in 2000 to $410,546 this year; the total payout has gone from $47 million in 2000 to $93 million in 2003. Under three percent of Medical Mutual's payouts from 1998-2002 were made on behalf of physicians who incurred more than two losses in that timeframe, putting the lie to the ATLA claim that the majority of malpractice is committed by a tiny minority of incompetent doctors. Medical Mutual has thus had to increase its rates 28% for 2004 and 33% for 2005; ob-gyn Amy Ampey told legislators that her insurance premium has gone from $45,000 three years ago to $112,000 next year. Doctors are threatening strikes.

Maryland is currently considering having taxpayers pay the increase, but there's a movement considering the radical reform of taking some malpractice cases out of the litigation system and into a workers' compensation type program. (Robert Redding Jr., "Malpractice-case amounts soar", Washington Times, Oct. 5; John Wagner and Susan Levine, "Md. Considers Special Session On Insurance", Washington Post, Oct. 4; M. William Salganik and Andrew A. Green, "Doctor policy reform pressed", Baltimore Sun, Oct. 5; Medical Mutual Notes, Oct. 23). Medical Mutual last year commissioned a report from Tillinghast-Towers Perrin refuting Public Citizen's claim that there was no malpractice problem in Maryland.

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Medicine and Law



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