Gov. Harry Hughes announced a Market Assistance Program today to help municipalities, day-care centers and nurse midwives obtain liability insurance.
Under the program, about 50 of the state's largest insurance carriers have agreed to help find insurance for businesses and municipalities that have had difficulty securing coverage, said Thomas P. Barbera, deputy insurance commissioner. If unsuccessful, the carriers will evaluate the risks involved and, in some cases, write the policies themselves.
Faced with dwindling profits and an increase in the number and cost of lawsuits, insurance companies throughout the nation have been canceling, refusing to renew, or rapidly increasing the costs of many types of insurance policies, industry experts and state officials say. The actions have affected day-care centers, local governments, long-haul truckers and other businesses.
The program goes into effect immediately, and applicants must pay a fee for the service: $10 for family day-care establishments, $25 for group day-care, and $100 for municipalities.
The program is voluntary, however, so insurers cannot be obligated to place a company or write a policy, Barbera said. Moreover, "The program isn't and cannot be designed to solve a costing problem," he said, so businesses faced with escalating insurance costs are not likely to find financial relief under the program.
Two Hughes-appointed task forces are developing legislation and recommendations for the 1986 General Assembly session to address the insurance problem. The program announced today will "complement" the task force work, Hughes said in a prepared statement, and it will "provide relief" to organizations unable to obtain insurance now.
This year, day-care centers in Maryland and across the nation faced sudden cancellations of their policies when the California company that specialized in the product discontinued the line. Maryland Insurance Commssioner Edward Muhl halted the midterm cancellations, but many centers will have difficulty finding insurance when their policies expire.
Similar problems have hit municipalities, including Sykesville, in Carroll County, where town officials briefly resigned in September when they had difficulty getting insurance.
Information and applications are available from the Maryland Market Assistance Plan, P.O. Box 27495, Towson, Md. 21285-7495, or by calling volunteer John Morley at 301-296-8585.