Maryland Group Seeking Universal Health

December 10, 2002 ( - The Maryland Citizens Health Initiative has proposed a plan to provide health coverage to the state's uninsured residents, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

The plan calls for state businesses not currently offering health insurance to employees, to pay 5% of their payrolls into a general fund for the uninsured.   Additionally, the plan will seek an increase in tobacco tax and a redirection of funds from other programs, to help cover the cost of providing health coverage to the state’s estimated 600,000 citizens currently without.

Additional proposals will seek to expand the state’s Medicaid program by establishing a new $522 million program to provide 170,000 state residents, who currently do not qualify for Medicaid, health coverage.  

Supporters of the initiative, who estimate this would give about 80% of the state’s residents employer-sponsored health insurance, will introduce the plan to state lawmakers in January, when they return to session to address the approximately $1.2 billion budget deficient.  

However, lawmakers and lobbyists alike do not hold out much hope for its passage.   “In a year without money and in the middle of a recession, my guess is that we wouldn’t go too far in any direction this year,” said State Senator Paula Hollinger (D), who favors expanded access to health coverage.

Sean Cavanaugh, a lobbyist for the initiative, said, “It’s certainly not going to pass this year, but we can do a lot of education.”

Opponents of measure, which includes Ellen Valentino, state director for the National Federation of Independent Business, criticize the plan as “a government-run plan financed on the backs of small businesses.”