Marooned in the spirited debate over health care reform are hundreds of thousands of children whose working parents don't qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private doctors. The problem -- now affecting upwards of 180,000 Maryland youngsters -- continues to escalate as local government health services disappear in the face of budget cuts just as demand soars.
One workable, if temporary, response to this gaping hole in the health care system is the grass roots alliances springing up between communities and providers across the region. Next month, Montgomery County and Kaiser Permanente embark on a program to split the cost of pediatric care for 35 children. In Allegany County, doctors and churches have teamed up to provide free doctor's visits, dental care, prescriptions and hospital stays for children and families without health insurance. Blue Cross and Blue Shield's Caring Program taps corporations to pay for immunizations, vision checks and other preventive care for youngsters in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. The list goes on.
Granted, these efforts only paper over the problem. But they represent a welcome patchwork on a quilt that's far from finished. State lawmakers, to their credit, are pushing hard to hammer out some kind of workable health care reform. But even under the most optimistic scenario, no real progress is likely until next year. In the interim, thousands of Maryland youngsters will go without the kind of preventive and primary health care every child deserves.