Saving $24 million in the state's deep-in-debt Medicaid program is no small feat. But saving $24 million while simultaneously providing the state's poor with greatly enhanced health care is an even bigger achievement. Yet that is exactly what health secretary Nelson J. Sabatini intends to do over the next six months.
The idea behind this program, dubbed Maryland Access to Care (MAC), is to steer Medicaid recipients away from costly emergency rooms and toward doctors' offices or clinics for medical treatment. Not only is this a cheaper method (an emergency room visit is three times more expensive than visiting a doctor's office) but patients will be able to establish long-term relationships with their doctors, which could lead to more preventive medicine and better health care for the poor.
For instance, Mr. Sabatini expects that by giving Medicaid recipients their own doctors there will be a 10 percent increase in children receiving immunizations and a 10 percent increase in poor women who have Pap smears and mammograms regularly. That could reduce the number of children hospitalized with severe illnesses and cut down on the state's high level of breast cancer and cervical cancer cases.