A health care crisis that must be addressed

Posted on April 02, 19100 at 22:04:45:

A health care crisis that must be addressed
By Maryland Senator Roy Dyson

Youíd think with Maryland facing a $925 million surplus that the very people who helped us attain it wouldnít be in some dire medical straits.

But they are and thatís a disgrace.

Consider this: Senior citizen residents in 14 Maryland counties do not have access to a Medicare plus Choice managed care plan. In other words, 15 percent of the seniors in this state that has this huge surplus have no access to Medicare plus Choice managed care plan.

For those who donít know, the Choice option to Medicare allows for prescription drug coverage and other benefits not covered by Medicare.

Also, Maryland is among the states with the highest percentage of Medicare enrollees who lack a Medicare plus Choice managed care plan.

Beginning last year, all but one insurance carrier who offered senior citizens Medicare plus Choice stopped offering that particular plan because they were losing money. Only Blue Cross/Blue Shield stayed on -- for a price. They charged Marylandís 14 rural counties, including Calvert, Charles and St. Maryís County, a $75 premium to continue to carry Medicare plus Choice.

I thought it discriminatory that rural seniors had to pay an extra $75 to keep their choice plan while urban counties did not. So last year, I introduced legislation that would make all counties have to pay equally which would cut down the excessive amount the seniors in rural counties would have to pay. Unfortunately that legislation failed. I promised the day that bill failed that Iíd be back in 2000 with another, better bill to help our seniors.

What made my commitment to introducing this bill this year even more imperative is that Blue Cross/Blue Shield refused to offer the choice alternative completely to rural seniors beginning in 2000.

This year, Iíve introduced Senate Bill 855 which will pay a subsidy to the first manage care provider to establish a Medicare Plus Choice managed care insurance program in a rural county that has no Medicare Plus Choice managed care program. The incentive for the insurance program to provide these benefits would be that the state would pay a $30 subsidy per enrollee per month provide that the managed care provider signs a contract with the Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene that guarentees that they will provide a Medicare plus choice managed care insurance program in rural counties not currently covered for an a period of two years.

Quite frankly, it is disturbing to me that the State of Maryland needs to do this since this is a federal problem.

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