The Maryland State Medical Society (“MedChi”) is a non-profit professional association of Maryland’s physicians. MedChi history reaches back to when it was chartered by the Maryland General Assembly in 1799. It immediately pushed towards building a medical college in 1807 which eventually grew into the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The organization’s mission is to be Maryland’s foremost advocate and resource for physicians, their patients, and the public health. That is an honorable mission and there is no question that MedChi does some great things. No one disputes this. But sometimes those goals of protecting doctors and patients are at cross purposes. When this happens, MedChi picks doctors. This is not a good thing for the State of Maryland.
MedChi Lobbying Efforts
What MedChi does well is lobby Maryland legislatures against the two evils that stand in the way of doctors being “just” the highest paid profession in Maryland to one where they have to look miles and miles to even get a glimpse of the second highest paid profession. That really is the stakes. Those two evils are insurance companies and patients seeking compensation because a doctor negligently hurt or killed someone they loved.
MedChi looks to put more of a burden on insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid to pay higher prices for their services. The organization looks to continue to take power away from Maryland juries by limiting how much money can be awarded in medical malpractice cases in Maryland, and just generally making it hard on patients to make their claims. MedChi was instrumental in pushing Maryland Patients’ Access to Quality Health Care Act of 2004, which some say involved MedChi working with medical insurer Med Mutual to create the appearance of a malpractice insurance crisis that we found out less than a year later did not really exist. But MedChi won. That law, which severely limits malpractice victims’ ability to get the money awarded by a Maryland jury, is still on the books.
To achieve these goals, MedChi spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists and pushes its largely wealthy doctors to donate to sympathetic candidates and PACs. They have vast economic resources and have remarkable public relations savy.
It is really hard to discipline doctors in Maryland. The Maryland Board of Physicians has been among the worst states in disciplining doctors who are not toeing the line. Maryland was ranked 38th among states for disciplining doctors according to the most recent study, disciplining only 2.55 doctors per 1,000.
We have essentially two bodies that oversee the Maryland Board of Physicians: (1) Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and (2) the legislature. The problem with this board – and others like it – is that once you get on the board, you tend to thumb your nose at those who technically oversee your work and do whatever it is that you want.
What they seem to want to do is drag their feet. You would think doctors would want to move quickly to get rid of the bad actors because it is really only a relatively small number of bad doctors out there. We have so many malpractice cases pending against doctors that are habitually accused of malpractice.
Those are the doctors that hurt the profession and keep malpractice premiums higher than they should be. But it takes the Maryland Board of Physicians sometimes years to get rid of an obviously bad doctor. (Here are some examples.)
What’s the problem? Basically, the fox is guarding the henhouse, as one Maryland legislature put it.
MedChi, who you would think would be in support of getting rid of its doctors who are giving the profession a bad name, has consistently fought legislative efforts to rein in more doctors and to do it more quickly. But instead, they have focused its efforts on fighting any attempt to make doctors more accountable.