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Advocates: Spare Health Care Program From Cuts

The Maryland Hospital Association joined health care advocates today in urging the General Assembly and Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to spare a new expansion of Medicaid to poor adults and families from the budget axe.

The expansion, approved by the legislature in a special session in 2007, was the state's most significant health-policy change in years. Maryland previously had one of the worst menus of benefits for poor adults under the state-federal program. It took two years but the bill passed at the urging of House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

More than 25,000 previously uninsured Marylanders have signed up for coverage since the expansion took effect in July, according to the nonprofit group Health Care for All, which pushed for the change.

But with deep spending cuts likely to help close a projected $1.9 billion budget shortfall, lawmakers are talking about delaying when the new coverage is phased in. A total of about 100,000 people will eventually be eligible; the question is when that will be possible.

Hospitals are nervous that fewer people on Medicaid will mean more visits to their already overburdened emergency rooms, pushing up the high cost of what is called uncompensated health care.

By Lisa Rein  |  January 15, 2009; 4:23 PM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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