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Gov. Ehrlich must offer malpractice bill framework

July 09, 2004

On Wednesday, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich again called for a special Maryland General Assembly session to pass a bill to fix what he said was a crisis caused by big hikes in malpractice insurance premiums.

The only problem is that Ehrlich doesn't have a bill, or even the outline of one. And the only solution put forth so far - creation of a taxpayer-funded pool to help pay premiums - is one he's rejected.

As we noted earlier this month, the two sides in this debate are far apart.

Many physicians believe the problem is trial lawyers looking for a big payday, while many attorneys feel that medical mistakes happen because doctors don't do a good job of policing their own ranks.

Somewhere in the middle there's a compromise, but someone has to lead the way. That someone should be the governor, but according to Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, members of the present administration are more interested in campaigning for office than in working on solutions.

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Miller's criticism of the Ehrlich administration's "lack of a work ethic" could be blamed on the fact that the senate leader is a Democrat and Ehrlich is a Republican. But Miller has been the governor's ally in the push to get the slots bill passed, and if Ehrlich loses that support, he doesn't have a prayer of passing any part of his legislative agenda.

Ehrlich needs to acknowledge that no solution to the malpractice issue will be crafted without concessions from both sides.

Earlier this month, we suggested that the search for solutions begin with the bill passed in Pennsylvania, which put limits on awards, but also mandated new safety measures for physicians.

Other states have also dealt with this problem and no doubt have good ideas that could be borrowed. And borrowing is something that must be done if anyone hopes to get something passed this summer. Starting from scratch would guarantee that the matter will be debated for the entire 2005 session.

The governor has called this a "health crisis," saying that without a solution, a woman who's pregnant might not be able to find an obstetrician when she's ready to deliver.

Right now, it's the governor who must deliver, by rolling up his sleeves and working with everyone involved to find a solution.

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