Md. health program cited by Kerrey as a model

May 04, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Congress is likely to use health care programs such as those in place in Maryland as models before adopting a national health care plan, U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey said during an appearance last night at the University of Maryland's main campus.

But the Nebraska Democrat, speaking at a health care forum sponsored by Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., told an audience of about 70 not to expect Congress to act on any Clinton administration health care plan this year.

"The health care debate probably won't be completed until 1994," Mr. Kerrey said. "I don't believe there is consensus on this yet, and I don't want us to rush it."

In an interview after his speech, Mr. Kerrey said Congress was well aware of Maryland's unique "all-payer" hospital system and would be more likely to copy it on a national level than pre-empt it.

"It's much more likely we'll be examining all-payer systems, and Maryland is cited a great deal for success with its system. People will be looking to Maryland," he said.

An all-payer system is one in which rates are set by a state commission, and all payers -- insurance companies, health-maintenance organizations, individuals or others -- pay the same rate.

In 1977, Maryland set up the Health Services Cost Review Commission to regulate hospital rates, and this year's General Assembly enacted legislation setting up a similar commission to regulate physician and other nonhospital health care services.

When Maryland's rate review system was set up in 1977, the state's hospital costs were 25 percent above the national average. By last year, they were 14 percent below the national average, said John Colmers, executive director of the cost review commission and one of last night's panelists.

Mr. Kerrey spoke at the forum on health care as part of a fact-gathering effort Mr. Curran has organized in anticipation of a race for governor in 1994. The attorney general had been the Maryland coordinator for Mr. Kerrey's brief presidential campaign last year.

Mr. Curran, a former state senator from Baltimore, former lieutenant governor and attorney general since 1987, has held a forum in Baltimore on crime and one in Montgomery County on education.

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