Md. access to OB-GYNs is far better than average [Letter]

In his letter to the editor ("Hogan: Hobby Lobby case a manufactured political issue in Md. governor's race," July 8), Republican gubernatorial nominee Larry Hogan complains that "the number of OB-GYNs in our state continues to drop; in fact three counties in Maryland lack a single OB-GYN practitioner, and 11 counties now have fewer than two."

Assuming that Mr. Hogan is correct in these numbers, women in Maryland enjoy access to specialized health care at four times the national average.

As of 2010, "[a]pproximately half (1,550, 49 percent) of the 3,143 U.S. counties lacked a single OB-GYN, and 10.1 million women (8.2 percent of all women) lived in those predominantly rural counties," according to a 2012 study.

This surplus of OB-GYN specialists is consistent with the relatively high concentration of physicians in Maryland, which ranks second out of all 50 states in the number of active physicians per capita. Maryland has 364.6 active physicians per 100,000 population, which reflects a 2.8 percent increase under the O'Malley/Brown administration. Of course, these numbers do not include the army of "physician extenders" — including nurse-midwives and certified registered nurse practitioners — who care for patients in Maryland.

The increasing concentration of active health care providers here may be due to Maryland's relatively high standard of living, combined with its stable malpractice litigation climate. During the O'Malley/Brown administration, the number of medical malpractice cases has remained steady, according to the Health Claims Alternative Dispute Resolution Office (where all such claims must be filed), and professional liability insurance has been available and affordable for Maryland physicians every year since 2006, according to annual reports of the Maryland Insurance Administration.

George S. Tolley III, Timonium

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