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House approves kidney treatment bill


ANNAPOLIS -- The poorest Marylanders with kidney disease would be treated free, but others needing treatment would pay part of the cost under a bill passed yesterday by the House of Delegates.

The bill would impose a charge on those who make more than $11,000a year or whose assets exceed $12,500.

Those patients would pay 5 percent income or assets above these figures for dialysis treat- ments.

The legislation seeks to provide coverage free or at low cost for the neediest of 4,200 Marylanders now participating in the program, said Delegate Brian K. McHale, D-Baltimore, a member of the House Environmental Matters Committee, which crafted the bill.

Mr. McHale said the committee believes that it has improved on a version of the program offered by the Schaefer administration in an effort to avoid shutting the program down, as was threatened late last year.

The cost of the House bill is projected at $6.6 million a year -- but it could be less depending on the revenue generated by the fees.

Money to cover the cost will come from various federal reimbursements, Mr. McHale said.

The bill, which passed the House on a vote of 133-0, now goes to the Senate, where its prospects are regarded as favorable.

The Senate version of the budget already includes $7 million for the program.

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