Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich today presented a plan to try take the sting out of an estimated 33% malpractice insurance rate increase set to take effect in January for the state's physicians.
The governor's bill, unveiled late this afternoon to a legislative task force, calls for a strict cap on noneconomic damages in malpractice lawsuits and the creation of a state pool to help subsidize premiums for physicians. While costs for that type of an insurance pool have ranged from $20 million to $50 million, Ehrlich has not outlined a specific method of funding the plan.
Ehrlich's plan, according to one aide for a top lawmaker, also calls for a continuation of a $650,000 cap on noneconomic damages while removing an escalator clause that increases that total $15,000 a year.
Separate task forces have been formed by the governor and the Legislature to address the steep hikes in insurance costs in Maryland, which officials say will force many hard-pressed physicians relocate, retire or limit high-risk services.
Ehrlich, a Republican who advocates caps on noneconomic damages, supported a measure earlier this year that would have reduced the cap to $500,000 from its current level. That legislation failed.
He has asked lawmakers to call a special session to pass his newest proposals. "He's urging them to convene in special session, but it's not 100%," said the governor's spokesman, Henry Fawell. "The ball is now in the Legislature's court."