By TIFFANY MARCH
WASHINGTON (March 18, 2010)—As many as 261,000 uninsured Marylanders could receive health care coverage and approximately 1 million families and 122,100 small businesses could receive tax credits to offset health care costs, under the current health care reform plan, according to a new congressional study.
The House Committee on Energy and Commerce released reports Wednesday for each congressional district in the country, detailing how many people and small businesses will be helped by health care reform.
Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Fort Washington, said she agrees with the committee's assessment of the 4th District benefits.
"Unemployment is not even nearly what it is around the country, but the fact that we have 50,000 people that don't have insurance at all" is a problem, Edwards said. "They're our neighbors, now we're going to make sure they're going to have health care coverage."
However, Rep. Frank Kratovil, D-Stevensville, sees things a little differently.
His spokesman, Kevin Lawlor, said the congressman understands the need for health care, but thinks "the plans that have been put before the Congress so far this term are likely to do more harm than good." The current legislation does not have a "sustainable price tag," he added.
The reports show the impact on each Maryland district. Some of the key findings are:
1st District: 25,000 uninsured will be covered, and 126,000 families and 17,900 small businesses could receive tax credits.
2nd District: 35,000 uninsured will be covered, and 155,000 families and 15,100 small businesses could receive tax credits.
3rd District: 20,000 uninsured will be covered, and 122,000 families and 15,200 small businesses could receive tax credits.
4th District: 50,500 uninsured will be covered, and 112,000 families and 13,300 small businesses could receive tax credits.
5th District: 21,000 uninsured will be covered, and 107,000 families and 12,100 small businesses could receive tax credits.
6th District: 24,000 uninsured will be covered, and 132,000 families and 16,900 small businesses could receive tax credits.
7th District: 37,000 uninsured will be covered, and 147,000 families and 14,000 small businesses could receive tax credits.
8th District: 48,500 uninsured will be covered, and 100,000 families and 17,600 small businesses could receive tax credits.
Maryland's only Republican congressman, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick, disagrees with the committee's assessment and will vote no on the bill, said his spokeswoman, Lisa Wright.
"Congressman Bartlett believes the Senate bill is a bad bill. You cannot reduce the costs of health care by refusing to pay the cost of health care," Wright said.
The final paragraph in each district report is stirring the most controversy: "No deficit spending," the reports state. "The legislation will reduce the deficit by over $100 billion over the next ten years and by about $1 trillion over the second decade."
Kratovil outright disagrees it will reduce the deficit, said his spokesman.
"Things like the 'doc fix,' (reimbursements for treating Medicare patients) have been removed from the bill and considered separately in order to achieve a deficit-neutral bill, but it still exists and will still cost more money without making a cut somewhere else."
Bartlett, his spokeswoman said, believes the bill cannot be deficit-neutral without seriously reducing access to health care.
"More and more physicians are already refusing to take Medicare patients and that trend will only increase if the Senate bill is approved," Wright said.
In contrast, Edwards said she "absolutely" agrees the health care proposal will save money over the long term. "The undertold story about what we're doing with reform is we're actually reducing the deficit over the next 10 years," she said.
Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco agreed.
"This is designed to be deficit-neutral," DeMarco said. "We haven't gotten the final CBO report, but based on what we know this proposal will save money—not cost money. It's smart for health care and it's smart for our economy to do this."
DeMarco said the reports should encourage Maryland's congressional delegation to support the health care legislation.
"We particularly urge Rep. Frank Kratovil, who voted against the House version," he added.
The information that the committee used to create the reports came from several different sources, including the Census Bureau's American Community Survey and the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Dave Schwartz, Maryland state director for the grassroots free-market organization, Americans for Prosperity, said he doesn't doubt the original data is correct, but thinks its use in the reports is "formulaic" and lacks credibility in defending such a major bill.
Schwartz also said the government has "a terrible track record" of predicting costs, including a 1965 estimate that Medicare Part A would cost $9 billion a year by 1990, when it actually cost $65 billion by 1990.
Some of the data may be outdated, given the number of people who have lost jobs and health care benefits in the recession, and the age of some of its data, including reports as old as 2004.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.