If you haven’t heard, Romney is out. For those like me who have waited to vote until Saturday, our Conservative choices are easy. There is only one Conservative candidate who can get enough delegates and that is McCain. Or you can place your vote for Hillary or Obama. Another option is to continue to stomp your feet and hold your nose and vote for RP or Huckabee or just not vote at all. So let’s here from you, what are your plans for Saturday?
BTW – McCain gets my vote. I do not agree with him 100% (way less than that), but believe he is the best person for the job. The War on Terror is the only thing I really care about and I do believe he will do what it takes to win and not cut and run.
Agency Tracking Doctors May Close; Md. Office Keeps Malpractice Files
The Washington Post November 28, 2003 | Lori Montgomery Ghevont Wartanian is one of the most frequently sued doctors in Maryland, drawing 23 lawsuits since 1981. But prospective patients of the Baltimore obstetrician would never find that out from the Maryland Board of Physicians, the state licensing agency, which is prohibited by law from disclosing most malpractice claims.
The information on Wartanian, who did not return calls seeking comment, is readily available in just one place: A little-known state agency called the Health Claims Arbitration Office, which maintains the most complete repository of malpractice lawsuits in Maryland.
Now a special commission to streamline state government is urging Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to abolish the health claims office, a move that could make it far more difficult for patients to find out whether a doctor has been sued.
The 10-person office was one of two small agencies targeted for closing this month by the Governor’s Commission on the Structure and Efficiency of State Government, a special task force headed by former Democratic governor Marvin Mandel. The recommendation comes as Ehrlich is working with the state medical society to draft legislation that would discourage malpractice lawsuits, in part by capping damages and attorneys’ fees.
The health claims office was an attempt at malpractice reform, established in 1976 to force malpractice victims to try to negotiate settlements with doctors before taking them to court. But Mandel’s commission said the office has been rendered moot by a 1995 law that makes arbitration voluntary.
Because all but a handful of the approximately 700 malpractice cases filed each year in Maryland now head straight to the courthouse, the commission concluded that the health claims office is a waste of about $650,000 a year.
“They only resolve 15 cases a year, many fewer than in years gone by,” said commission member Raymond C. Nichols, a banker and an entrepreneur who studied the health claims office. “While they have a body of records that is very, very important, we suggested this function should be transferred to another appropriate agency,” such as the clerk of the court. go to web site maryland board of physicians
Harry L. Chase, director of the health claims office, said its annual budget is less than $550,000 and that it regularly prevents up to 16 percent of malpractice claims from reaching the courthouse — about 100 cases annually. More important, Chase said, the office performs the vital task of notifying the public, hospitals and licensing boards when a doctor is sued, a task that would be difficult for the state’s overburdened courts to perform.
“We’ve become the central repository for all this information,” said Robin L. Ryan, Chase’s executive assistant. “In the interest of saving $500,000, they’re proposing to ruin what little system of record-keeping we’ve got.” The health claims office was established by the General Assembly after doctors complained in the mid-1970s that lawsuits were driving up the cost of malpractice insurance and threatening to drive them out of business. The office was intended to weed out frivolous complaints by requiring victims to submit a statement from a second doctor attesting that malpractice likely occurred.
Victims who obtained a so-called certificate of merit proceeded to arbitration. But arbitrated settlements were not binding, and the office proved unpopular with both doctors and lawyers because it added a layer of bureaucracy to complaints that generally wound up in court anyway.
In 1995, the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association fought successfully to allow claims accompanied by a certificate of merit to proceed directly to the courtroom. Since then, the number of cases closed through arbitration has dwindled.
Over the years, however, the office has amassed a unique database on malpractice claims. The office also generates a “high flier” list of doctors who have been sued several times, which is sent quarterly to the Maryland Board of Physicians. go to web site maryland board of physicians
The Board of Physicians also maintains records on the lawsuits, but those files are not open to the public. Indeed, MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society, protested a plan to include malpractice lawsuits in the doctor profiles the board posts on its Web site, arguing that publicizing unproven allegations would unfairly stigmatize doctors.
Under a law that took effect in July, the board is allowed to make malpractice suits public only after they have survived years of appeals or if a doctor settles at least three suits for more than $150,000 each in less than five years, according to the board’s executive director, C. Irving Pinder Jr. Even those suits have yet to be listed on the Web site because the law is so new, Pinder said.
Since Mandel’s commission proposed abolishing the health claims office, Nichols said, he has received numerous requests to reconsider the decision. Even the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association and MedChi – – two lobbying powerhouses on the verge of another battle over malpractice — have asked the commission to remove the recommendation from its final report, which is due to land on Ehrlich’s desk Dec. 8.
“Although we think the big goals of the HCAO have not really been met, it is serving a useful purpose,” said T. Michael Preston, MedChi’s executive director.
But some political observers wonder why, among the dozens of independent agencies reviewed by the Mandel commission, only the tiny health claims office and the state Board of Contract Appeals were recommended for the ax.
“I was kind of amused when the recommendation was made,” said Kevin J. McCarthy, a spokesman for the trial lawyers group. “I wondered what prompted it now after all these years.” Some note that the health claims office was created while Mandel was governor, and that Mandel is a lawyer who once worked as a paid lobbyist for MedChi. But Nichols said Mandel “didn’t urge me to craft our opinion one way or the other.” “I’m a principled businessman who votes his conscience,” Nichols said. “This is an agency that had a purpose and had a need. The question is: Does it still need to be an independent agency?” Lori Montgomery