Bad driver surcharge sought in Maryland

| Monday, September 13, 2004

A Maryland lawmaker wants “bad drivers” to help the state cut medical malpractice insurance costs.

State Sen. Rob Garagiola is considering reintroducing his Driver Responsibility Act if a special session is convened on the malpractice issue.

Legislators are discussing a possible special session this fall to address how doctors would deal with a request by Medical Mutual, the state’s largest malpractice insurer, to increase medical malpractice fees 41 percent beginning Jan. 1.

Garagiola, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill this past session that would fine drivers for accumulating six or more points in a three-year period. The increased revenue would be used to underwrite increased malpractice costs for area doctors.

The bill is modeled after a similar system in New Jersey, which imposes bad driving surcharges and in 2003 raised $134 million for the state, the Capital News Service reported.

In Garagiola’s measure, drivers would be charged $100 for their sixth point in three years and $25 for every point above that. Drunken-driving convictions would draw a $1,000 fine. Second and third offenses would cost $1,500 and $2,500.

When first introduced, the bill – SB900 – called for 25 percent of the funds to go toward the Medicaid program and 75 percent to the state’s general fund, which would include transportation. It remained in committee when the regular legislative session ended in April.

The special session version of the bill would devote all funds to underwriting doctor’s premiums, Garagiola said.

If lawmakers fail to meet before the end of the year, Garagiola said he would reintroduce the bill when senators head back to the Capitol in January.

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