Maryland Celebrates Enactment Of Health Care Expansion

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Governor Martin O'Malley today joined Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch to celebrate landmark legislation to expand medical coverage to more than 100,000 uninsured Marylanders and encourage eligible families to enroll in the expanded program. The Governor was also joined by Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John Colmers, Department of Human Resources Secretary Brenda Donald, state and local lawmakers, and members of the HealthCare for All Coalition and the AARP.

"Over the last year, the State of Maryland took a major step forward in expanding healthcare coverage to our working families, our small businesses, our seniors, and our children," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "I want to thank Speaker Busch, Chairman Hammen, Senator Middleton, and all the members of the General Assembly, as well as Vinny DeMarco with the Healthcare for All Coalition and the AARP for helping us pass this legislation."

"Healthcare is not a privilege - it is a right. The Working Families and Small Business Coverage Act provides healthcare coverage to some of our neediest residents as well as reduces the burden on the insured, who pay to cover the costs of the uninsured," said Speaker Michael E. Busch. "I commend Governor O'Malley, Chairman Pete Hammen and the entire General Assembly for making tremendous strides in providing quality healthcare for all Marylanders."

"For too many Marylanders, a life without health care means a life of suffering and isolation," said AARP Maryland Senior State Director Joseph DeMattos, Jr. "With this legislation, Maryland has taken the first steps towards relief for our neighbors who have struggled without care."

Prior to the legislation, Maryland had almost 800,000 residents who were uninsured, and was ranked 44th in providing healthcare for parents through Medicaid. As a result of the legislation, Maryland has moved up to the 21st position, becoming one of the nation's least restrictive states in providing health care to adults and children most in need.

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During the event, Governor O'Malley presented Alanna and Adamantious Boulis, residents of the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore, with their official healthcare enrollment cards. Through the Act, the Boulis' are now able to receive the testing and medical care they need for Mr. Boulis' diabetes and colon cancer.

"Today, 100,000 previously uninsured Marylanders are now able to rest a little easier with the knowledge that quality health care is within their reach," Lt. Governor Brown said. "I am proud to be a part of this administration which continues to make the steady progress that the bright future we aspire to requires."

The Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act creates the Medical Assistance to Families program, a Medicaid expansion effective July 1, 2008 that covers parents with incomes up to $20,500 for a family of three, 116 percent of the federal poverty level. The Medical Assistance to Families program provides eligible parents or other family members of children with access to quality health care services that include doctors' visits, hospital stays and lower co-pays for prescription drugs.

It also creates the Health Insurance Partnership beginning in October to help lower the cost of health insurance for Maryland's small businesses. The Health Insurance Partnership helps very small employers who have not been able to offer health insurance in the past to provide health insurance to their employees. Eligible small businesses will be able to buy health insurance at about half the cost and rewards individuals for efforts to improve their health.

"This important expansion provides much needed relief for over 100,000 Maryland residents. I look forward to continue working with the Governor to ensure that all Marylanders have access to affordable, high quality health care," said Peter A. Hammen, Chairman of the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

"Maryland is moving back into a position of national leadership in health care access reform," said John M. Colmers, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "This is an important first step to ensure all Marylanders have access to quality health care." In addition to the healthcare expansion, earlier this year, Governor O'Malley signed legislation that provides prescription drug assistance for thousands of Maryland's seniors, by helping close the coverage gap in the federal government's Medicare Part D prescription drug program, known as the "donut hole." In addition, Governor O'Malley signed legislation that expanded dental benefits to Maryland's most vulnerable children.

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