GOP says Md. moving too fast on health care reform

By BRIAN WITTE – Feb 17, 2011

By The Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Republicans criticized Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration on Thursday for moving too quickly to implement federal health care reform that could be changed or stopped in federal court cases.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who is leading the Democratic administration’s effort to implement health care reform, said he is committed to making Maryland a national model for implementing the federal law, and he criticized Republicans he said have "chosen to put politics ahead of our neighbors’ health."

Maryland House Republican Caucus members discussed proposals of their own at a news conference, where they said Maryland Democrats are going too far, too soon.

"It is absolutely critical that consideration be given to alternative options, and legislation isn’t simply hurried through the process in order to gain a political advantage by being the first," said Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot.

Delegate Anthony O’Donnell, the Republican House minority leader, said Maryland shouldn’t create bureaucracies and spend money on a program that might not exist a year from now.

"We are way out in front of this in Maryland, and we’re saying slow back. We don’t need to be way out in front," O’Donnell said.

Republicans highlighted legislation of their own, including a proposal to amend the state’s constitution so residents are not required to buy a particular health care plan. Republicans also want to work on reforms to medical malpractice laws, which they say are causing doctors to leave the state.

The O’Malley administration has been a strong supporter of federal health care reform. Brown outlined legislation this week to put Maryland on the fast-track to implement it.

Maryland currently has between 700,000 and 800,000 uninsured residents, according to state health department estimates. The administration estimates that number will be cut in half by 2020.

Brown is championing legislation this session that would create a structure and framework to develop the insurance exchange required under federal health care reform. These state-based exchanges are pools intended to offer the same kind of purchasing power that employees of big companies benefit from.

Brown also is backing legislation to align Maryland law with consumer protections in the federal law, including provisions that bar exclusions from insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The lieutenant governor also is supporting a measure to create a council to bring public agencies and the private sector together in hopes of improving health care quality and reducing costs.

Maryland has received more than $100 million in federal grants to implement the federal law. That includes a $6.2 million grant to start forming the health exchange. Parts federal health care reform already have been enacted, including a ban on excluding children from coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Copyright © 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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