Maryland officials face a decision Wednesday on a controversial plan that would effectively freeze payment rates to hospitals in the state over the next year. Hospital representatives say they could be forced to lay off workers if the proposal is approved by the Health Services Cost Review Commission—an independent agency made up of seven commissioners appointed by the governor. For the past two years, the commissioners have increased hospital rates by less than the inflation rate hospitals faced, said Carmela Coyle, president and chief executive of the Maryland Hospital Association. "We are very concerned that this will really jeopardize hospitals' financial condition at a time when we need to strengthen it," Coyle said. "This will have serious consequences."