ANNAPOLIS — Del. Lawrence A. LaMotte has once again immersed himself in a major legislative issue -- this year, it's health care reform.
Last year, the abortion issue had LaMotte working overtime, meeting behind thescenes with legislative leaders and speaking at demonstrations as a main sponsor of the House of Delegates' abortion rights legislation.
Now, rescuing health care programs has become his obsession.
LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, is one of three delegates working with the Speaker of the House on major changes in the way the state administers Medicaid, the health assistance program for Maryland's poor.
"It's all-consuming," said LaMotte, 42, a financial planner.
In addition to his regular Environmental Matters Committee post, LaMotte has been assigned to work with two other standing committees because of his experience with health budget issues. He has served on a jointcommittee on medical assistance since 1988 and has chaired House subcommittees on health.
To reduce shortfalls, the state has cut Medicaid, which is partially federally financed, during the last two fiscal years. Those cuts burdened nursing homes,
which have experienced increased costs but have few resources to compensate for the cutbacks.
About 70 of the 109 patients at the Long View Nursing Home in Manchester receive Medicaid. By law, the home can't exclude patients on medical assistance in favor of those who can afford to pay.
As a result of the cuts, Long View is struggling to maintain its patientcare, say administrators.
"Somewhere along the line, we've got toget reimbursed so we can take care of patients," said Long View owner Martha Tarutis.
LaMotte helped develop a plan that would save the state money and compensate for Medicaid cuts by taxing nursing homebeds. The money generated would be matched by federal contributions.
Nursing homes would recoup the money paid in taxes through the federal program, and some money would be left to pad the state's Medicaid fund, he said.
"We wouldn't have a service reduction," said LaMotte.
Sandra Martin, co-administrator at Long View and president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, has worked closely with LaMotte on health issues.
"His experience in the legislature and the knowledge he's gained over those years provides us with a veryeducated legislator who can make sound decisions based on the best interest of the patients," she said.