Opponents of cuts in health care criticize governor over proposal

No reductions definite, budget secretary says

October 05, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Opponents of proposed cuts to state health programs criticized Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday for threatening drastic reductions in medical services for the poor.

Members of Health Care for All Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates for improving health care coverage for Marylanders, gathered for a news conference and rally at the Men's Health Center on North Avenue with several elected officials and public health leaders.

The group is trying to garner opposition to the state Health Department's proposed $480 million in cuts that, if enacted, would make thousands of children ineligible for free health insurance coverage and close four mental health facilities. The cuts could also force women to pay for laboratory tests after rapes.

"If we do not defeat these proposals that are on the governor's desk we can never achieve health care for all in the state of Maryland," said Democratic Del. Salima S. Marriott of Baltimore, who was joined at the event by City Council members Robert W. Curran and Kwame Osayaba Abayomi.

James C. "Chip" DiPaula Jr., state budget secretary, rejected the criticism of the Republican administration.

The governor is committed to providing the services that his critics fear are going to be cut, DiPaula said.

"It's an invalid assertion that there are cuts on the table," he said. "All we are doing is evaluating the expenditure of every dollar in the state and making sure that they are being utilized in the best manner possible."

He said Ehrlich wants to make sure the state is spending taxpayer dollars efficiently to insure the viability of such health programs.

"The governor wants to make sure we are able to provide sound education for our youth, to provide for a strong public safety system and health care and human services for those who need it the most," DiPaula said.

Officials at yesterday's news conference were joined by Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson and a number of children whose subsidized health care could be jeopardized.

"The cuts on the table could result in a situation that is tantamount to child abuse," said Sharon Rubinstein, a spokeswoman for Advocates for Children and Youth.

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