Maryland Senate Approves Health Care Expansion Bill

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The Maryland Senate on Friday voted 30-17 to approve legislation thatwould expand Medicaid eligibility for adults and extend healthinsurance premium subsidies to small businesses and their employees,the Baltimore Sun reports. The vote comes just months after state lawmakers rejected a similar measure.

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Thelegislation would increase the Medicaid income eligibility thresholdfor adults from about 40% of the federal poverty level to 116%. Thechange eventually would allow an estimated 20,000 uninsured parents toqualify for the program and would draw more children into the program.Children in families with incomes up to 300% of the poverty level arecurrently eligible for Medicaid. Childless adults could receive somehealth care services under another state program until they receivefull Medicaid benefits. More than 50,000 childless adults eventuallycould be added to the program, the Sun reports.

Inaddition, the measure would provide subsidies of up to $1,000 per yearto small businesses that do not offer workers health benefits, as wellas $1,000 per year to each employee who enrolls in anemployer-sponsored plan. Small businesses would have to implementemployee wellness programs to receive the funds.

When fullyimplemented, the plan would extend insurance to about 100,000 stateresidents and cost more than $600 million annually, including federalmatching funds and $250 million in additional state revenue. Some ofthe provisions may be canceled if funding is unavailable, according tothe Sun. State Republicans have criticized the timing ofthe health care expansion as inappropriate because of a projected $1.7billion state budget shortfall for fiscal year 2008. The House ofDelegates is expected to take up health care legislation in the comingdays, the Sun reports (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 11/10).

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 HealthPolicy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The HenryJ. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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