Maryland, Washington State Enter Ring on Health Care Reform
Maryland House leaders on Wednesday unveiled a proposal to extend health insurance coverage to at least 250,000 uninsured state residents, the Washington Post reports. Funding for the plan primarily relies on a proposed $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax (Rein, Washington Post, 2/8).
The proposal would:
- Use a projected $212 million in annual revenue from the new tobacco tax to expand eligibility for Medicaid beneficiaries (Wyatt, AP/Washington Times, 2/8);
- Require state residents whose incomes exceed four times the federal poverty level to buy insurance or pay state penalties of as much as $2,000;
- Require private insurers to allow adults up to age 25 to remain covered by their parents' plan;
- Provide $140 million in subsidies for health benefits to employers with fewer than 50 workers; and
- Provide $40 million for substance abuse treatment and smoking cessation programs (Smitherman, Baltimore Sun, 2/8).
The bill faces steep opposition from state Senate leaders (Washington Post, 2/8).
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) and state Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday announced a proposal that aims to offer universal health coverage to all state residents within five years, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. The plan would cost an estimated $142 million over the next two years.
Under the proposal, all Washington children would have health coverage by 2010 through private or public health plans. Unmarried adults ages 19 to 25 would be eligible to remain on their parents' health insurance and young adults' employers would be able to contribute to the cost of coverage.
Gregoire said the plan is intended to push individuals to purchase health coverage rather than require employers to provide coverage.
The state would allow public and private markets to form purchasing pools with the intent of negotiating lower-cost premiums, and the state would expand its subsidized health insurance program for low-income working adults. The plan calls for health insurance to be portable, emergency department care to be diverted to local clinics and increasing the focus on health information technology.
In addition, the state insurance commissioner would examine ways to reduce administrative costs.
Nearly 600,000 Washington residents are uninsured, including 73,000 children (Ammons, AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2/7).