Maryland Lawmakers Will Try To Expand Health Coverage

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Maryland lawmakers have said they will work to pass a health carepackage again this year that reduces the number of uninsured residentsand health insurance premiums, and increases the number of workers inwellness programs, the AP/Washington Timesreports. However, similar efforts have failed in the past, and thestate faces a projected $1.5 billion budget deficit in the next fiscalyear, which means costly reforms likely would have to be funded throughtax increases, according to the AP/Times.

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Lawmakersover the summer held a series of hearings on low-cost ways to improvehealth coverage. Options include providing incentives for physiciansand community health centers to extend their hours to reduceafter-hours visits to emergency departments and measures to encouragebusinesses to fund worker weight-loss programs and gym memberships.

In addition, expanding Medicaid is a "big priority" for lawmakers, the AP/Timesreports. State Sen. Robert Garagiola (D), chair of the state JointCommittee on Health Care Delivery and Financing, said, "It's criticalthat we expand Medicaid," adding, "That clearly has to be a part" ofany coverage expansion plan. The AP/Times reports that an expansion likely would cost millions of dollars.

DelegateDan Morhaim (D) said the state must focus more on low-cost solutionsand expanding preventive health services. "There's a lot of money beingspent (on health care), but we're not really spending it in the mosteffective way," Morhaim said. Lawmakers plan to meet in the fall todraft health care proposals (Wyatt, AP/Washington Times, 9/7).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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