A coalition of labor and business groups today endorsed the idea of low-cost basic health insurance that would be exempt from the state's controversial mandated benefits.
This position is a departure for the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor federation, which had fought for mandated benefits in the past.
By state law, certain benefits are required in health insurance policies. These benefits include transplants, in vitro fertilization, mental-health care and substance-abuse treatment. In total, the state requires 35 benefits, one of the largest numbers in the country.
The mandated benefits have long been a target for business groups, while labor and consumer groups have supported them. But in an effort to provide affordable insurance to the 570,000 Marylanders without coverage, labor is willing to change its position, according to Ernest Crofoot, chairman of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO health cost committee.
"Labor is gulping," Crofoot said about the state labor organization's new position, saying changes may be necessary.
The call for a basic health insurance plan was part of a four-part package presented by the Labor-Management Health Action Committee, a group representing the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, major Maryland employers and unions. Other provisions include:
* The creation of a commission to study the non-hospital costs of the state's health-care system.
* Granting the Health Services Cost Review Commission the authority to study whether fees for hospital-based specialists, such as radiologists and anesthesiologists, should be regulated. The commission now regulates hospital costs.
* Requiring doctors to tell patients when they are being referred to a medical lab owned by the doctor. Crofoot said the labor-business group has not endorsed a proposal by Blue Cross and Blue Shield that would offer a basic health insurance plan without mandates. He said that proposal is still "under study."