Universal Health Care Advocates In Maryland Unveil Medicaid Expansion Proposal
Maryland advocacy groups and lawmakers who support universal healthcare on Wednesday unveiled a new proposal to expand Medicaid to aportion of the state's 800,000 uninsured residents through a$1-per-pack increase to the state tobacco tax -- "even as state leadersstruggle with a $1.5 billion budget shortfall," the Washington Post reports.
Thetobacco tax would raise an estimated $200 million, but the fundsgenerated by the tax would gradually decline. Maryland limits Medicaidcoverage to individuals with annual incomes less than half of thefederal poverty level.
According to the Post, the"renewed momentum" is "rooted in political strategy: A deal to closethe deficit with spending cuts, tax increases and revenue fromslot-machine gambling" might convince political leaders to compromiseon health care.
State House Speaker Michael Busch (D) supportsthe health care plan, while Senate President Mike Miller (D) is opposedto raising taxes to fund a new program when the state has a deficit.Busch and Miller have long disagreed about legalizing slot machines,with Busch opposed and Miller in favor. According to the Post,"Busch is unlikely to accept slots without a deal on health care, ...while Miller is unlikely to yield on health care without slots."
Itis "uncertain" if the state Legislature will discuss health care reformbefore the new session begins in January 2008 or if it will bediscussed at a tentative special session this fall about the budgetdeficit, the Post reports. Busch said, "Until you improvethe eligibility for Medicaid, you can't do anything," adding, "We'vejust been ranked the wealthiest state in the nation, yet 16% ofMarylanders don't have health insurance" (Rein, Washington Post, 9/12).
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