I am writing to respond to Ellen Flynn’s deeply flawed op-ed on the proposed bill to ensure lifelong care for infants with birth-related injuries (“Maryland has no medical malpractice crisis,” Feb. 11). She contends that the bill is an attempt to unfairly shield hospitals and doctors from malpractice lawsuits. This contention is disappointing and could not be further from the truth.
This bill to establish an Infant Lifetime Care Trust is necessary to deal with the explosive growth in malpractice judgments in Maryland, at a rate that far outstrips the rest of the country: Over the same period, Maryland claim amounts increased by more than 300% while claims in all other states went up by 50%.
That’s in spite of data showing that Maryland hospitals provide among the best care in the nation. U.S. News and World Report ranks the state No. 2 for hospital quality, and at Johns Hopkins hospitals and clinics in Maryland, we work constantly to ensure that our patients receive the highest quality care.
Unfortunately, our ability to provide that care, particularly for mothers giving birth, is now at risk, due to a sharp increase in the cost of medical liability insurance. As of Jan. 1, the liability insurance premiums for the Johns Hopkins Health System increased by an astounding $40 million annually. And in our fiscal year 2021, our insurance costs will jump to $151 million. The problem is that because of the rise in malpractice judgments in the state, insurers see the state’s liability climate as unsustainable. Other Maryland hospitals that provide obstetric care face the same challenges.
Contrary to Ms. Flynn’s assertions, there is no question that we do have a crisis here. A growing number of enormous malpractice judgments are destabilizing the health care system. At the same time, some judgments may not cover lifetime care for injured babies, especially after attorneys take out fees of 40% or more.
The Infant Lifetime Care Trust would go a long way toward solving these problems. It would protect health care providers from unsustainable insurance costs, while also preserving families’ right to seek justice in courts and hold doctors and hospitals accountable for mistakes. Most importantly, it would ensure that injured children receive the care they need and deserve — for life.
I urge lawmakers to put aside overheated rhetoric and instead prioritize the interests of our citizens, our patients and our health care providers.
Dr. Andrew J. Satin, Baltimore
The writer is director of gynecology and obstetrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.