A record $229 million jury verdict in a Baltimore birth injury medical malpractice case in 2019 has led to the introduction of bills in the Maryland Legislature to establish a fund from which future medical expenses in such cases would be paid, which is supported, naturally, by the Maryland Hospital Association. Efforts in prior years to pass such legislation in Maryland have not been successful.
Senate Bill 879, if passed into law, would establish the “Maryland Infant Lifetime Care Trust” and would require “IN ANY CASE IN WHICH THE JURY OR COURT HAS MADE AN AWARD FOR FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES ARISING OUT OF A BIRTH–RELATED NEUROLOGICAL INJURY SUBJECT TO TITLE 20, SUBTITLE 21 OF THE HEALTH – GENERAL ARTICLE, ANY PARTY TO THE ACTION OR PERSON AUTHORIZED TO ACT ON BEHALF OF THE PARTY MAY APPLY TO THE COURT TO REQUEST THAT, ON A FINAL DETERMINATION THAT THE PLAINTIFF IS A QUALIFIED PLAINTIFF, THE JUDGMENT REFLECT THAT THE FUTURE MEDICAL EXPENSES OF THE PLAINTIFF WILL BE PAID OUT OF THE TRUST IN ACCORDANCE WITH TITLE 20, SUBTITLE 21 OF THE HEALTH – GENERAL ARTICLE.”
Senate Bill 879 provides: “A QUALIFIED PLAINTIFF SHALL BE ELIGIBLE FOR ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING BENEFITS AND COMPENSATION TO BE PAID AND PROVIDED FROM THE TRUST: (1) ACTUAL LIFETIME EXPENSES FOR QUALIFYING HEALTH CARE COSTS, LIMITED TO REASONABLE CHARGES PREVAILING IN THE SAME COMMUNITY FOR SIMILAR TREATMENT OF INJURED INDIVIDUALS WHEN THE TREATMENT IS PAID FOR BY THE INJURED INDIVIDUAL; AND (2) REASONABLE EXPENSES INCURRED IN CONNECTION WITH THE ADJUDICATION OF ANY DISPUTED MATTERS UNDER THIS SUBTITLE.”
The Trust would be funded (up to $40 million) by Maryland hospitals that provide obstetrical/baby delivery services: “THE COMMISSION SHALL ASSESS A FEE ON ALL HOSPITALS THAT CHARGE FOR ACUTE OBSTETRICS, NEONATAL INTENSIVE CARE UNIT, NEWBORN NURSERY, PREMATURE NURSERY, NORMAL NEWBORN, OR LABOR AND DELIVERY SERVICES WHOSE RATES HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY THE COMMISSION TO PAY FOR THE AMOUNTS REQUIRED UNDER § 20–2109 OF THIS ARTICLE REGARDING THE FUNDING OF THE MARYLAND INFANT LIFETIME CARE TRUST.”
The Trust determines what health care costs are covered and paid by the Trust: “THE TRUST SHALL MAKE THE PRELIMINARY DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER A COST IS A QUALIFYING HEALTH CARE COST TO BE PAID FROM TRUST … (3) IF THE TRUST’S PRELIMINARY DETERMINATION IS DISPUTED BY ANY PARTY, THE FINAL DETERMINATION SHALL BE MADE BY THE OFFICE.”
A spokesperson for a Maryland patient advocacy group stated in reference to the proposed creation of the Maryland Infant Lifetime Care Trust: “Once again, Maryland’s hospitals want other people to pay for their errors. As in previous years, this bill shifts the cost of a hospital’s fault onto other payors – health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid. Ultimately, patients and taxpayers are the ones who will pay $40 million dollars every year, not the hospitals and doctors who commit these errors and jeopardize the life and health of their patients.”
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury (or worse) during labor and/or delivery in Maryland or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a birth injury lawyer in Maryland or in your state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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