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Health care proposals dissected

Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce hosts discussion and debate

Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce hosts discussion and debate

August 05, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- As Congress grapples with health care reform, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce hosted a discussion and debate of federal and state proposals Wednesday.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, explained his group's "Health Care for All!" plan for more affordable coverage in the state.

DeMarco said the plan includes:

o The state taking over catastrophic coverage

o A large pool for buying insurance

o Lower co-payments for proven treatment methods.

The plan, an effort to help hundreds of thousands of Marylanders without health insurance, would cost about $3 billion, DeMarco said. The money would be raised through a 2 percent payroll tax and higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol.

DeMarco's opponent in the debate, Ronald Wineholt, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce's vice president of government affairs, called the payroll tax and the price tag it would create "very dangerous."

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Commenting on a federal health care proposal, Wineholt said employers would have to provide a certain level of benefits or face a payroll tax.

The idea might be appealing "if you're comfortable handing your wallet to the government," he said.

The federal plan exempts the smallest businesses, but the "Health Care for All!" would have no exceptions. Businesses that don't provide health care won't like the payroll tax, but need to chip in, DeMarco said.

He said the savings for a business insuring employees under the "Health Care for All!" plan would be greater than the added payroll tax, but Wineholt said the savings isn't certain.

Wineholt said a "slightly" larger buying pool probably wouldn't affect rates much, but DeMarco said the pool, including individuals, would be "significantly" larger.

One thing missing from the federal health care proposal is defensive medicine, Wineholt said. Currently, physicians perform some tests only to avoid being sued, he said.

DeMarco and Wineholt said they agree that establishing wellness incentives will lead people to take care of themselves and stay healthy.

About 50 people attended the discussion and debate at the Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center in Hagerstown. It was part of the chamber's "Eggs & Issues" breakfast series.

Health Initiative proposal



To read the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative proposal, go to www.healthcareforall.com and look for "Health Care for All!"

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