A healthy approach

Baltimore County: New program hopes to provide health coverage for uninsured adults.

August 16, 1999

National and state policy-makers have talked about it for years: How do you cover the millions of Americans who have no health insurance? But there hasn't been much progress.

So we welcome the Baltimore County Health Department's innovative effort to provide coverage for the estimated 105,000 uninsured adults living in the county.

The program is the brainchild of Dr. Michelle Leverett, who has been thinking about the issue since 1995 when she became the county's top public health officer.

By combining different programs, grants and health care organizations, Dr. Leverett has assembled the framework for a program that would offer comprehensive health coverage to uninsured adults.

The seed money comes from the Maryland Health Care Foundation, a Columbia nonprofit agency established to increase access to health care. Dr. Leverett negotiated with Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, to provide the routine medical service for participants in this plan.

The program will focus initially on a few hundred adults in households that participate in the Children's Health Insurance Program, a federally financed program that serves about 16,000 Baltimore County children.

The program will try to establish an endowment that could provide a predictable stream of money. Dr. Leverett hopes other health-related organizations will participate by donating services or money. Participants will also pay a nominal fee -- about $25 a month.

Until national and state programs cover the millions of uninsured, more of these small-scale programs will have to suffice.

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