HMOs lose fight as Senate passes medical directors...

Assembly Digest

March 25, 1997

HMOs lose fight as Senate passes medical directors bill

Handing a defeat to the health insurance industry, the Senate voted last night to bring HMO medical directors under the supervision of the same agency that handles disciplinary actions against other physicians.

The highly controversial bill, approved 25-21, would put such officials under the oversight of the state Board of Physician Quality Assurance. The measure goes to the House of Delegates.

Proponents, led by Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat, contended that such directors -- who must by law be licensed Maryland physicians -- make medical decisions when they set the standards for health care in their organizations. Opponents, led by Sen. Walter M. Baker, a Cecil Democrat, contended that the bill stretches the definition of medical practice.

House OKs tax credits to promote hiring

The House of Delegates approved two of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's second-tier tax bills last night -- one to give tax credits to businesses that hire the disabled, and one to expand tax breaks for firms that hire workers in targeted urban and municipal areas.

The Senate has already passed similar versions of both bills, meaning the tax measures are likely to become law.

Employers could claim a tax credit of up to $1,200 for each person with a disability who is hired.

Health care approved for women and children

A proposal to provide basic health care for uninsured women and young children was approved by the House of Delegates last night.

The Senate passed another version of the bill last week, mean- ing the measure is likely to win final approval before the General Assembly adjourns April 7. It is Gov. Parris N. Glendening's chief health initiative of the session.

The bill, scaled down somewhat by a House committee, would offer basic prenatal coverage to uninsured women in families with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty level, or about $31,000 a year. It also would cover children in those families through age 3.

Minimum hospitalization after breast surgery fails

A House of Delegates committee has killed two bills that would have required health maintenance organizations to pay for at least 48 hours of hospitalization after breast cancer surgery.

Proponents had argued that such legislation was needed to end what they called "drive-through" mastectomies. But the bills, sponsored by Del. Marilyn R. Goldwater, a Montgomery Democrat, and Del. John P. Donoghue, a Washington County Democrat, failed in the Economic Matters Committee when moderates and liberals could not unite around one of the measures.

Donoghue said he hoped the problem of premature releases of mastectomy patients would be addressed indirectly through legislation making it easier for the public to appeal HMO decisions.

Pub Date: 3/25/97

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