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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Double Trouble in Maryland

Double Trouble in Maryland

April 17, 2007

Two recent setbacks in Maryland on the health access front:

First, our allies at Maryland's Health Care for All launched a vigorous campaign to increase the state’s tobacco tax by a buck and use the funding to expand Medicaid eligibility for about 200,000 uninsured folks. The Assembly approved the measure and the Senate refused to take it up, thus killing the proposal for this year.

Second, MD Attorney General Douglas Gansler on Monday said that the state would not appeal a second federal ruling against a state law that would have required Wal-Mart to increase spending on health care for employees. The law, enacted on Jan. 12, 2006, would have required employers in Maryland with 10,000 or more employees to spend at least 8% of payroll costs on health care or contribute to a state fund for the uninsured. Wal-Mart was the only employer in Maryland that the law would have affected.

Gansler said an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court likely would fail, but even if it succeeded, litigation could take years and hinder other efforts to expand health coverage in the state…. Secretary Thomas Perez, who represented Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) at a news conference, said that future health care proposals in the state might be modeled after the Massachusetts health insurance law, which requires all state residents to obtain health insurance, creates a private insurance exchange, provides public subsidies for low-income residents and requires contributions from businesses. "Massachusetts is certainly a state we will look at very, very closely." -- from today's Kaiser Health Policy Report.

Since Maryland passed the Wal-Mart tax in January 2006, more than 20 state legislatures considered passing a similar requirement. Not one state followed Maryland’s path. It’s fair to conclude the Wal-Mart health tax idea is dead.