August 15, 2004
No, it's not Maryland voters who are giving the independent presidential candidate the cold shoulder. It's Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Why, Nader asked at a news conference in Annapolis last week, has Ehrlich (R) failed to answer his July 14 letter about rising medical malpractice insurance rates?
In the letter, Nader takes issue with the governor's approach to solving a growing problem that could lead to a shortage of physicians in Maryland. Ehrlich has called it a crisis and proposed solving it with tort reform. He wants limits set on the multimillion-dollar jury awards that he says are driving insurance rates sky-high.
But Nader called that "tort deform" and said in his letter to Ehrlich that such a measure would be "misguided and cruel to Marylanders." Limiting jury awards, he wrote, merely punishes the victims of medical mistakes.
Nader said he believes that the real answer to the medical malpractice mess lies in a combination of improved insurance regulation and an intensified effort to weed out bad doctors.
"Five to 10 percent of physicians should not be practicing medicine," Nader said. "But the state licensing boards are extremely weak in policing bad doctors."
At the news conference, Nader claimed that Ehrlich has been spending "more time receiving money from insurance and doctor lobbyists and less time on the rampant epidemic of violence that is preventable but that is taking more lives here in Maryland than highway accidents" -- by which he meant: medical mistakes.
During Nader's first visit to the state since submitting enough signatures to secure a spot on the Maryland ballot, he also took time to raise concerns about the state's new electronic voting machines. The touch-screen technology, which does not create a paper record for each voter, is risky because hackers could tamper with the election results, he said.
None of this, it turns out, explains why Ehrlich has not responded to Nader's letter.
The reason, said Ehrlich's spokeswoman, Shareese N. DeLeaver, is because "a four- to six-week response time is typical for correspondence to the governor."