A Stray Bullet in Maryland

By January 4, 2005General

Those of us trapped inside the Washington Beltway and regular readers of the Washington Post have been following the saga of medical malpractice reform in Maryland, where Republican Governor Bob Ehrlich is in a battle royal with the forces of evil, otherwise known as the trial bar.

Like many other states — in fact worst than most — doctors have been fleeing Maryland in droves due to the soaring cost of malpractice insurance. So the great minds in Annapolis convened to find a solution to the problem of doctors being sued repeatedly and often unfairly by a tenacious trial bar. Guess what they came up with? A tax on HMO’s! Stop us if you’ve heard this one.

Recall if you will that Maryland is home to, among other luminaries, Peter Angelos, trial lawyer extraordinaire and owner of the Baltimore Orioles. Angelos and his ilk wield legendary power in Maryland, as evidenced by this latest half-baked scheme.

The Washington Post, for its part, editorialized with snide comments about Ehrlich’s unwillingness to raise taxes, opining that through his obstruction (i.e., his unwillingness to add the cost burden on employers and individuals) he had “missed his change to strike a constructive deal” with the trial bar-controlled legislature. Too bad.

It seems to us that if you want to fix the problem of too many frivolous lawsuits, you might want to start with the lawyers, no? Call us crazy, but the idea of taxing HMO’s is just one more stray bullet in the health care battles where the villain is pretty clear.

And so we say “Bravo” to Governor Ehrlich for standing in there and suffering the slings and arrows of the press and the legislature by threatening a veto. Taxing HMO’s is the wrong way to make up for lost money in the system. Capping legal fees, and then capping them some more, and throwing the book at lawyers who continue to press frivolous suits, might be a better place to start.