Democrats propose version of children's health care plan

January 21, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The Democratic leaders of the House of Delegates proposed their version of a children's health insurance program yesterday, promising to work with Gov. Parris N. Glendening to combine the best elements of their two plans.

"We believe we are going to come out of here with the best possible program," House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said at a news conference.

Glendening has proposed spending $76.2 million in fiscal 1999 to offer coverage to children under age 18 from families whose incomes are up to 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The state program would be launched with $29.4 million in state funds, which would be matched by $46.8 million in federal money.

While the announcement dealt primarily with the differences between the House leadership's plan and the governor's, Taylor's remarks were conciliatory toward Glendening and the Senate.

The governor's program is well on the way to passage by the Senate largely unscathed. Senators gave preliminary approval to the legislation yesterday, with one noncontroversial amendment, and are expected to pass it overwhelmingly as early as tomorrow.

The tone struck by House leaders indicated that it is unlikely the program would suffer the fate of Glendening's more modest Thriving By Three children's health program, which died on the last day of last year's session when the two chambers could not resolve their differences.

Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he saw no "deal-breakers" in the House proposal. "There's nothing here that can't be worked out," the Baltimore County Democrat said.

Majority Leader John A. Hurson, the bill's prime sponsor, said the House will begin moving its version of the legislation at a hearing tomorrow. Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the speaker wants to bring the bill to the House floor next week so the two chambers will have plenty of time to resolve their differences.

More than 75 of the House's 100-strong Democratic majority -- representing both the liberal and conservative wings of the party -- have signed on as co-sponsors, the leadership said.

Delegates noted that the House leadership plan is similar to the governor's.

Glendening's plan takes the form of a straightforward expansion of the state's Medicaid managed care program for all eligible families.

The House keeps that approach for families with incomes up to 185 percent of the poverty level, a group that includes 6,000 to 10,000 of the 60,000 children who would be eligible for coverage under the governor's program.

Where it departs from the governor's program is in how it treats families with incomes from $28,800 to $35,000. House leaders would assign the responsibility for covering those children to the Maryland Health Care Foundation, which was created last year to grapple with the problem of uninsured health care.

Pub Date: 1/21/98

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