Schaefer puts quick pen to health reform bill

April 14, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

The governor wasted no time yesterday signing into law Maryland's landmark health care reform bill.

The new law, which supporters hope will become a model for the nation, is expected to change the way doctors practice medicine and the way patients pay for it. The General Assembly enacted the measure in the final days of the session that ended Monday night.

"The bottom line price tag for total health care [for state residents] will be curtailed in four to five years," predicted Del. Casper R. Taylor Jr., a chief architect of the law who attended yesterday's signing.

The law is intended to make health insurance more available to employees of small companies, many of whom are uninsured.

This may mean higher premiums for some people who have insurance, but affordable rates for others now without coverage. More than 600,000 Marylanders are uninsured.

The law also calls for a new commission that will have the power to limit doctors' fees if voluntary cost-control strategies fail.

A decidedly upbeat Mr. Schaefer praised legislators for putting their differences aside to craft the bill, which became the focus of intense lobbying by doctors and lawyers.

"Now that you all are finished, we start," he told several dozen lawmakers at the State House. "We have to implement the health insurance bill. That is not going to be easy."

Mr. Taylor, an Allegany County Democrat, said he expects bills fine-tuning the package to be introduced during the next few years.

"We will improve on the system as we go along," he said. "The most immediate job is to educate everyone in Maryland as to what this bill does."

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