ANNAPOLIS – A Montgomery County senator says he has a way to cut medical malpractice insurance costs – make bad drivers pay.
Sen. Rob Garagiola said he may reintroduce his Driver Responsibility Act if a special session is held on the malpractice issue.
Medical Mutual is requesting a 41 percent increase in medical malpractice fees beginning Jan. 1, and legislators are discussing a special session to address how doctors will deal with the cost.
Introduced last session, the Montgomery Democrat’s bill would fine drivers for accumulating six or more points in a three-year period, Garagiola said. The increased revenue would be used to underwrite increased malpractice costs for area doctors.
“For me, it’s a two-step process,” Garagiola said. “One, we need to find a way to underwrite or address increases with some kind of fund and two, we need to have some long-term reforms to address the problem in the long term.”
Maryland’s Driver Responsibility Act would be similar to New Jersey’s. In 2003, New Jersey generated $134 million from the program, Garagiola said.
Drivers would be charged $100 for their sixth point in three years and $25 for every point over six. A drunken-driving conviction would result in a $1,000 surcharge, regardless of points, and the fine would increase with subsequent offenses.
When first introduced, the bill called for 25 percent of the funds to go toward the Medicaid program and 75 percent to another fund that would include transportation. That bill was not approved because it ran out of time, Garagiola said.
The special session version of the bill would devote all funds to underwriting doctor’s premiums, Garagiola said.
Reintroducing the bill during a special session would be a win-win situation, Garagiola said.
“It’s unique in that it can help underwrite malpractice in the short term and it will reduce traffic fatalities,” he said. “It’s a direct nexus between trying to (impact) a health care issue and the fact that people are ending up in hospitals because of traffic fatalities.”
Some oppose the use of transportation funds for non-transportation purposes. Richard Parsons, president of the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce, was unavailable for comment, but has expressed his opposition in other publications.
Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan said it does not comment on legislation that has not been submitted.
But, if a special session fails, Garagiola said he will bring the bill to the Senate next year. The idea won a lot of Senate support and some House bipartisan support, he said. “One way or another, we can move it forward.”