Waiting for care

April 27, 2006

The fate of legislation that would provide state health care benefits to 4,000 uninsured immigrant women and children lies with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who has not indicated whether he will sign the measure into law despite overwhelming support for it in the General Assembly.

The bill is unambiguous and should be made law. It would require Mr. Ehrlich to provide $3 million in medical care funding annually for low-income immigrant women and children who are in the country legally but are not yet eligible for federal health care benefits.

Maryland was one of only a few states to provide health coverage for these immigrants. It was a humane policy that also saved taxpayers millions that would otherwise be spent on emergency room visits by sick people with no health insurance.

Mr. Ehrlich believes he's done enough by allocating $3 million in grants to local health departments to cover affected immigrants next year. But one-time grants are no substitute for comprehensive health care.

The bill offers a reasonable and affordable compromise - especially compared with the costs of doing nothing.

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