Howard County To Unveil Universal Health Care Proposal

Armen Hareyan's picture

Howard County, Md., officials on Oct. 16 are expected to announce aproposal to provide health care to all uninsured county residents, amove that would put the county "in the forefront of the national debateabout the availability of health care," the Baltimore Sunreports. Under the proposal, uninsured county residents would pay asmall fee to access primary care, either through a clinic or aparticipating physician, rather than use emergency departments. Onlycounty residents would be eligible for the program.


The plan would not require employer participation and would not involve Medicare or conflict with a proposed statewide expansionof Medicaid. The plan would combine funds from beneficiaries,businesses and foundations. It also would use government funds,although a majority of the money would come from within the currenthealth care system.

County Executive Ken Ulman said somecounty funds also might be necessary. Plan details, including how tohandle family dependents and conduct enrollment, have not beenfinalized. It is expected to take about a year to implement. The planis designed to be adapted for use in other counties in the state andnation, according to Peter Beilenson, the county's health officer andthe plan's primary architect.

"We want this to be replicable,"Beilenson said, adding, "No matter what comes out of this, we're closeenough to a final version that I can say, 'This is not just something awealthy county can do. This is something that pretty much any county inMaryland can do.'" Ulman, who has advocated for universal health caresince his election in November 2006, said, "The opportunity to deliveraffordable access to those in our community in the wealthiest county inthe wealthiest state in the wealthiest country is something we ought tobe able to do, and we're pretty close" (Carson, Baltimore Sun, 9/13).

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