Lack of health coverage among workers growing Several remedies being studied in Md.


WASHINGTON -- Ann Fowler recently returned to her job as a receptionist at a Baltimore hair salon because it pays better than the bank job she took last year -- even though she now has no health insurance.

But with a 15-month-old son, she and her husband are beginning to struggle with the costs of that decision. The child "was sick less than two weeks ago, and I had to put out $100 just in prescriptions," Ms. Fowler said.

"You have to cut out a lot of things. If I get sick, I don't go to the doctor because I can't afford it," she explained

A new study shows the Fowlers are members of a rapidly expanding club: the working uninsured.

Nearly 36 million Americans in 1990 lacked private or public healthinsurance -- 661,000 of them in Maryland -- according to a study released yesterday by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, a Washington-based research group. And more than 85 percent of the total lived in families headed by workers.

Especially disturbing, the study said, is that the numbers not only are rising, but the percentage of Americans with no health insurance is increasing, too.

The problem of the uninsured in Maryland has led to the consideration of several changes, some aimed at making coverage easier to afford and more available to workers.

Jonathan P. Weiner, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, said Marylanders are better off in some ways than people in some other states.

Unlike many other states, Maryland has a backup system in its hospitals, which are forbidden from turning away patients, he pointed out. The system spreads the cost of that uncompensated care to everyone who pays for hospital care.

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