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Health Care Not Dead Yet in Maryland

Plans to greatly expand health care coverage for the poor in Maryland may not be dead after all.

The Senate leader of a legislative panel working to expand health care coverage said yesterday that the General Assembly should set aside a fund to improve health care when it addresses Maryland's projected budget shortfall.

"We're going to get one bite at the apple," said Sen. Rob Garagiola (D-Montgomery), co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Health Care Delivery and Financing. "It would be my hope that we set aside some dollars in advance."

The committee met in Annapolis to take another crack at expanding health care access for an estimated 750,000 Marylanders without medical insurance. An effort led by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) failed in the legislative session that ended in April, with the House passing an ambitious bill to offer Medicaid to tens of thousands of uninsured adults but the Senate rejecting it.

Health care is likely to figure heavily in negotiations between Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) and legislative leaders over how to deal with the fiscal crisis. The legalization of slot-machine gambling, a priority of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. (D-Calvert) will be on the table. Busch is sure to make a health-care package his bargaining chip.

Garagiola was appointed to the health care committee by Miller, who opposed the plan during the legislative session that ended April 9 because of its proposed cost. So Garagiola's supportive comments will no doubt be seen as encouraging to advocates of expanding health care coverage.

By  |  May 30, 2007; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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