State, physicians receive millions back from malpractice premiums

by Len Lazarick, The Examiner

State coffers and Maryland physicians will be getting back close to $100 million in medical malpractice insurance premiums under a consent order announced Thursday by Gov. Martin O’Malley and his insurance commissioner, Ralph Tyler.

Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society, which insures three-quarters of the doctors in the state, will return the funds that were part of subsidies set up by the legislature in 2005 to stabilize skyrocketing malpractice rates. The subsidies come from taxes on health maintenance and managed care organizations.

The higher premiums can be returned because “the frequency of malpractice claims [is] in decline,� Tyler said at a news conference. That is because of “improved practices� by physicians and other reforms passed by the General Assembly in a 2005 special session.

Because of reduced lawsuits and legal claims insurance rates for physicians will be about the same next year as this year, Tyler said. He called this “a tremendous outcome� and “all of this has been accomplished without further litigation.�

“This is welcome news for all Marylanders,� said Dr. Martin Wasserman, head of the state medical society. “Many physicians are being squeezed by rising expenses and poor reimbursement rates and, frankly, they can’t absorb escalating malpractice premium rates anymore.�

For some physicians, particularly in obstetrics and gynecology, malpractice insurance can cost over $100,000 a year, the medical society said.
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