MARYLAND: Lawmakers Reach Kiddiecare Compromise
Leaders in the Maryland General Assembly yesterday agreed "to create a $76 million program to provide" health insurance coverage to about "60,000 children and pregnant women from working poor families," the Baltimore Sun reports. A "compromise proposal" that was worked out by state Senate and House leaders is "is expected to win final General Assembly approval today or tomorrow." Gov. Parris Glendening's (D) spokesperson Ray Feldmann said the governor was pleased with the compromise legislation and would likely sign it into law. "It's a tremendous moment for the children of Maryland, because it means that children of working families will receive health care and pregnant women will receive prenatal care that is so essential," said Feldmann. "It's a great piece of legislation and I am confident it will pass overwhelmingly in both houses," added state Senate President Thomas Miller (D).
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Maryland will fund the program through $29.4 million of its own money, drawing down $46.8 million in matching funds from the federal Children's Health Insurance Program (Kiddiecare). The state Senate had wanted to use the money to expand the state's Medicaid program, while the "House wanted to provide coverage comparable to Medicaid, but through a new program separate in the law" that required some contribution from enrollees "to avoid the appearance that an entitlement was being created." The compromise includes this element of the House bill. However, enrollees in families under 185% of the federal poverty level would pay no premiums; those in families between 185% and 200% of the poverty level would pay premiums totaling between 1% and 2% of their income. According to the Sun, enrollees in the program, which is slated to begin July 1, would receive care through "the same private managed care providers who currently serve Medicaid recipients." State Del. Michael Busch (D), chair of the state House Economic Matters Committee, said the "compromise was 'a responsible way' to provide the coverage, 'where people feel vested in a program and the legislature has the opportunity to revisit the program to see if it's fiscally sound and accountable'" (Zorzi Jr., 4/9).