Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr. announced the appointment of a 20-member task force to resolve what he calls a "medical malpractice insurance crisis" and said he will press for a special legislative session to address the issue.
"There is a healthcare access crisis in the state of Maryland," Ehrlich said at a news conference at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md. "It's significant today, and it's going to get worse. The Legislature needs to act now."
Ehrlich says Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland, the state's largest medical malpractice insurer, wants to raise its rates 40% next year.
The Maryland Insurance Commission, which must approve rate hikes, hasn't yet received a request from the company, said Insurance Commissioner Alfred Redmer Jr.
The governor's office said malpractice rates rose 28% over the past year for many Maryland doctors.
The state House of Delegates this year approved legislation that would have raised requirements patients must meet to get their cases into court. But the Senate killed Ehrlich's insurance legislation, which aimed at reducing or holding the line on insurance premiums for doctors, hospitals and nursing homes by reducing the cost of settlements in malpractice lawsuits.
Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch didn't rule out the possibility of calling lawmakers to Annapolis this summer, but he said it isn't likely.
"Why would we talk about a special session when the task force doesn't even have a report?" Busch asked, referring to Ehrlich setting a November deadline for his new panel to come up with recommendations.
The governor, who appointed the task force Friday, said the timeline can be accelerated, if leading lawmakers are willing to work together to solve the problem.
"If we believe we could get a deal struck in the next month or two, we'll work 24-7 to get it done," Ehrlich said.