Legislators offer plans for health-care reform Hollinger, Huff debate state's role PASADENA

February 12, 1993|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

A panel that included two state legislators attacked the issue of health-care reform last night in front of several dozen members of the Severna Park branch of the American Association of University Women.

NTC With a national debate raging over how to overhaul the U.S. health system and President Bill Clinton embracing a model in which the government would regulate insurers, Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D-Baltimore County, urged reform -- in keeping with the new administration's goals -- on a state level first.

But Delegate W. Ray Huff, D-Pasadena, warned that any new state system would have little chance of succeeding without uniformity nationwide.

Ms. Hollinger has proposed a bill that would geographically divide the state into four risk pools, spreading patients at various levels of risk among carriers, to make health insurance cheaper and more widely available. It features standard benefits packages, where everyone in the community would pay the same premiums, and would not disqualify anyone on the basis of a pre-existing medical condition, she told the group.

The Clinton administration has asked state officials to proceed with their own experimentation, she said.

About 570,000 people in the state, including many of the working poor, are uninsured.

"Health insurance is killing the nation, it's killing our state," Mr. Huff said during opening remarks at the forum at Our Shepherd Lutheran Church on Benfield Road.

Mr. Huff has introduced two health-related bills now before the House Environmental Matters Committee.

The first would create a commission to study costs and benefits of nontraditional, alternative medical methods. It also would establish ways to inform patients of the benefits and risks of such methods.

A second bill would prohibit the Board of Physician Quality Assurance from taking disciplinary action against doctors solely for using alternative methods, as long as they comply with recognized standards of medical practice.

Patients often miss out on less costly, but effective, treatments that do not rely on drugs, Mr. Huff said, because doctors fear retribution from the medical establishment for using alternative medicine.

"A hospital doesn't want anybody known to mess with holistic medicine," he said. Yet "every country recognizes complementary medicine. It can help individuals and cut on medical costs."

The third panelist, Martin Milrod, a member of the state legislative committee of the American Association of Retired Persons, said his group supports a system in which the government pays for all health care. He said such a system would most likely be paid for by a surcharge on income tax and include long-term care and universal and comprehensive coverage.

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