Proponents of a birth injury fund in Maryland are pressing ahead with their efforts to have Maryland join other states, such as Florida and Virginia, that have funds that are designed to pay for the medical and other expenses of seriously injured babies who were injured during birth. This is the second year in a row that the Maryland birth injury fund concept is being proposed to the Maryland General Assembly.
Everyone agrees that the medical expenses and long-term care costs for a catastrophically injured baby in Maryland can be enormous over the lifetime of the injured child. It is estimated that about seven babies born in Maryland would be eligible for benefits paid through the Maryland birth injury fund every year. However, the parents of the injured child would have to forego bringing a Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit for their child’s injuries in order to be eligible to receive compensation through the proposed Maryland birth injury fund.
The Maryland General Assembly considered a similar proposal for a birth injury fund last year but the proposal lost the support of the Medical Mutual Liability Insurance Society of Maryland (“Medical Mutual”), Maryland’s large medical malpractice insurance carrier, when the proposal called for physicians to be responsible for two-thirds of the costs of the fund.
The Maryland Association for Justice (“MAJ”), which is comprised of trial attorneys whose mission includes a dedication to protecting and improving Maryland’s civil justice system, opposes the concept of a birth injury fund in Maryland, contending that the fund would unfairly and unnecessarily impinge on the rights of the most seriously injured victims of medical malpractice to be fully and adequately compensated for the harms that they suffered (medical malpractice tort reformers in Maryland, as well as in most other U.S. states, have historically argued the need for medical malpractice tort reforms (i.e., insulating negligent medical providers from being held fully responsible for the harms they cause and limiting the compensation that the most seriously injured victims of medical malpractice may receive) due to increasing medical malpractice insurance premiums that they argue will result in medical providers abandoning their medical practices because they can no longer afford their medical malpractice insurance premiums).
In its report to the Maryland General Assembly dated December 1, 2015, the Maryland Work Group To Study Access To Obstetric Services (“Work Group”) stated that Maryland had 32 birthing hospitals that delivered 67,356 babies in 2014. The Work Group, which consisted of seventeen organizations, including seven hospital/medical systems and five medical-related associations, stated that “[i]ncreasing medical liability costs in obstetrics represent a significant threat to access” and therefore recommended “the establishment of a No-Fault Birth Injury Fund to stabilize medical liability costs and provide a clear and critical incentive for hospitals to continue to provide this vital community service. Such a fund would provide direct, timely compensation, medical care and other services, without the uncertainty of protracted litigation, to children who suffer a devastating birth injury. In addition, providers covered by the fund would receive a credit discount on medical liability premiums, a direct incentive to continue practicing obstetrics.” The Work Group’s recommendations were approved by a vote of 13 in favor, with one abstention (the only opposition came from MAJ; Medical Mutual abstained from the vote).
In its letter dated October 2, 2015 that accompanied the Work Group’s December 1, 2015 report to the Maryland General Assembly, Medical Mutual stated, “The omission of the funding source creates real concerns for us and has forced us to abstain from voting on this portion of the final report language. We did not vote for it since the removal of the funding source language leaves a known large and controversial issue unaddressed.”
In its letter dated October 30, 2015 that accompanied the Work Group’s December 1, 2015 report to the Maryland General Assembly, MAJ stated, “The Workgroup’s report confirms that ‘current data are insufficient to accurately capture the state of access to obstetrical care in Maryland’ … Maryland has a relative surplus of obstetricians, with 32% more obstetrician per capita than the national average … enacting a so-called ‘birth injury fund’ will not attract more obstetricians … Obstetrical malpractice insurance rates have been declining steadily, due in part to increased competition among insurers … a birth injury fund won’t bring down insurance costs … When malpractice occurs, the civil justice system provides for accountability in a public forum. By eliminating public accountability, a no-fault birth injury fund removes an important incentive for health care providers to use appropriate care.”
If you or a loved one suffered a birth injury in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Maryland birth injury lawyer, or a birth injury lawyer in your state, who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you in a birth injury case, if appropriate.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.