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State health care expansion helps thousands in Washington County

December 07, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- A recent statewide expansion of health care has led to coverage for about 2,000 more Washington County residents, the leader of an advocacy group said Monday.

Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative, said more than 52,000 adults benefited from the Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act.

The Maryland General Assembly passed the act in 2007, and it went into effect last year.

DeMarco -- whose nonprofit organization advocates affordable health care for all adult residents and coverage for all children -- said the 2007 expansion helped boost Maryland from 44th in the nation to 16th in coverage for adults.

He made three Western Maryland stops Monday to tout expanded health care coverage -- Grantsville in Garrett County, then Frederick County, then the Washington County Health Department in Hagerstown.

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Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, who sits on the House Health and Government Operations Committee, said covering more people means fewer will rely on hospital emergency rooms for primary care.

DeMarco said the Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act had three parts -- grants for small businesses, expanded Medicaid eligibility for parents and expanded eligibility for adults without children.

The last part is in law, but hasn't been implemented yet, he said.

Donoghue and DeMarco encouraged people to call 211 to see if they might be eligible for coverage under the 2007 act.

"There are still people that are eligible and unenrolled," Donoghue said.

He said it's unclear what, if anything, state legislators might try to change this year connected to health care until Congress decides on a reform bill.

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