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Insurer seeks higher premiums from Md. doctors


Maryland doctors would pay 12 percent more in premiums for professional liability insurance under a rate increase proposed by Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland.

It was the first rate increase requested by Med Mutual, which insures an estimated 75 percent of Maryland doctors, in at least seven years.

In its filing, the insurer cited a recent change to the state law that sets a maximum amount for noneconomic damage awards, which the company said was causing costs and premiums to rise. The law raised the cap on damages to $500,000 from $350,000.

Insurance regulators said they planned to hold a public hearing on the proposal next month. Med Mutual officers declined to comment yesterday pending the hearing.

Joseph A. Schwartz III, a lobbyist who represents the state medical society, said the increase was the result of two factors: a 1993 decision by an appeals court that removed the previous cap on pain and suffering in wrongful death cases; and the new law.

"It is fair to say it is warranted," Mr. Schwartz said, noting that at least 250 cases came "uncapped" -- in which jurors could award unlimited damages -- in the time between the court decision and the new Maryland law.

The cap on pain and suffering in wrongful death cases was reinstated in the 1994 legislative session, but the compromise for that reinstatement was an increase in the dollar amount of the cap, Mr. Schwartz said.

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