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October 6, 2006

Gubernatorial Candidate Martin O'Malley Outlines Health Care Plan

Democratic Challenger in Governor's Race Promises Access, Affordability

Martin O'MalleyIn an October 5 campaign stop at the Bloomberg School, Baltimore Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley outlined his proposals for improving health care in Maryland, with a primary focus on making health insurance available to the 780,000 state residents who lack coverage.

O’Malley, who hopes to unseat the incumbent, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., in the November 7 general election, said his priorities include helping small businesses to afford health insurance for employees, strengthening community health centers and expanding drug treatment programs.

“Very few states in the union are more equipped with the brainpower and terrific institutions that we are blessed with in Maryland to tackle this head on,” O’Malley said of the state’s health care challenges. 

His health care plan calls for the establishment of a statewide insurance purchasing pool in which small businesses join together to purchase employee health insurance at lower rates. According to O’Malley, 87 percent of the state’s uninsured live in households with at least one working adult, yet fewer than half of small businesses in Maryland offer health insurance.

He also promised to increase access to the Maryland Children’s Health Program? which provides comprehensive health benefits to uninsured children? with improved enrollment procedures and a targeted outreach strategy.

Citing progress in the battle against drug addiction in Baltimore through increased investment in drug treatment programs, O’Malley pledged to continue his efforts at the state level, and mentioned the possibility of developing a secure inpatient facility for drug-addicted inmates.

“This scourge [substance abuse] fuels so many problems, and is so ubiquitous and so pervasive and underneath so many of the challenges that we confront,” he said.

O’Malley pledged to increase funding for community health centers, noting that these facilities fill a critical gap in providing preventive and routine health services to low income residents and the elderly.

Additional components of his health care plan include recruiting more nurses to the state, reducing the cost of prescription drugs and working for new physician reimbursement rates.

“Our quality of life depends on the health care we receive,” O’Malley said. “People in public office are always trying to find that elusive single answer to fix things, and there is none. It’s a complex puzzle, and we need to roll up our sleeves and find the missing pieces.”—Jackie Powder                                  

Mayor O’Malley’s appearance at the Bloomberg School kicked off the Fall Policy Seminar Series, sponsored by the Department of Health, Policy and Management. Other seminar topics are: The Massachusetts Plan for Universal Health Coverage, Caring for an Aging Population, Computerization of Medical Records and the Role of Lobbyists. 

Kristen Cox, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s running mate, is scheduled to discuss the governor’s positions on health care issues on October 12 at the Bloomberg School, from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.