As Baltimore's health commissioner for 13 years, Beilenson frequently points out that his department's work led to the city's lowest levels of infant mortality and teen birth rates and the highest immunization rates for school-aged children. Beilenson is founder of Health Care of All, a coalition working for low-cost health care for Marylanders.
Beilenson said his opponents' plans are "much more generic" than his.
He said he would require Medicare and Medicaid to cover clinically proven preventive services and would encourage, through incentives, private insurance companies to do the same.
He would also introduce a bill similar to one drafted by the late Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, which would provide federal incentives to states to develop their own universal health care systems with hopes that one emerges as a national model.
But Sarbanes said he believes state initiatives can't completely solve the country's health care crisis because of federal regulations that govern multistate employers.
"I agree that states have something to offer in terms of modeling, but I think there's a limit on what they can achieve," said Sarbanes.
Sarbanes is chairman of Venable's health care group. If elected, he said, he would support increasing Medicaid eligibility from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 350 or 400 percent. He would also expand Medicare by decreasing the eligibility age from 65 to 55.
And he would support building a public-private partnership using tax incentives or subsidies, in the case of small businesses, to defray the cost of employer-based coverage and allow individuals to maintain insurance as they switch jobs.
But Democratic candidate Oz Bengur, a businessman and former treasurer of the State Democratic Party, questioned the feasibility of adding seniors to a program that is already in the red. "I think it's an irresponsible proposal that sounds good, but he has no notion or concept about how you pay for it," said Bengur.
Sarbanes said the funding would come initially from the general tax base, and eventually savings would arise out of investing in preventive care.
Bengur said he supports a plan passed in Massachusetts, which allows individuals to maintain insurance when they switch jobs. Democratic candidate Mishonda M. Baldwin, a Columbia attorney who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, said she would introduce a proposal to insure every baby born after 2006 through the age of 22. "You insure the vulnerable populations first," said Baldwin.
Kevin O'Keeffe, a Democrat and former government aide in Baltimore and Anne Arundel, said he would advocate a plan to allow small businesses to pool resources to gain purchasing power.
Applebaum, who has raised the most money of eight GOP candidates, said he supports health care reform through a system of government vouchers or subsidies to help all individuals purchase insurance in the private market. "The government can't hold a monopoly in providing health care," said Applebaum. "Every other kind of insurance is effectively provided by the private marketplace."