ANNAPOLIS -- A House committee considered a bill yesterday that would practically ban the private health insurance industry from Maryland, put doctors on a strict annual budget and create a Canadian-style "universal" system.
It was the first of three hearings in the House to examine the major health-care reform plans before the legislature this year. Most observers give those bills slim chance of becoming law this year, but supporters of the Canadian system think momentum for such a plan is building.
"Tinkering is not the answer. We need major reform," said Del. Paul G. Pinsky, D-Prince George's, sponsor of what he calls the Maryland Universal Health Care Plan. The United States spends more than 12 percent of its gross domestic product for health care, and that is expected to increase to 20 percent by 2000, Mr. Pinsky told the committee.
At the same time, more and more people are going without insurance.A study released last month by the Employee Benefits Research Institute showed that 640,000 people in Maryland have no coverage. Mr. Pinsky said an additional 500,000 Marylanders are underinsured.
His plan would creat a "single-payer" system in which a state-created board would set an annual budget for health-care expenditures. Most of the savings, he argued, would come from abolishing the administrative costs of the insurance industry.
A legislative analysis shows that the state could save $9.4 million in coverage for its own employees in the first year under the measure. The plan would be financed by the federal, state and local money now spent on health coverage in Maryland; by higher alcohol and tobacco taxes; by a 9 percent payroll tax on employers; a 1 percent employee payroll tax; and by graduated individual and corporate income taxes.
The plan was opposed by the state physicians association, private insurers, the state chamber of commerce and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, among others.