Lack of health coverage among workers increasing Md. considers remedies for insurance woes.


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. 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 health insurance -- 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.

In 1990, 16.6 percent of the non-elderly population had no health coverage, up from 15.9 percent in 1988. In Maryland, 16 percent of the non-elderly population lacked health coverage in 1990, up from 12 percent the year before.

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.

Others seek to overhaul the state's health care system. Jonathan P. Weiner, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, said Marylanders are better off than people in some states.

Unlike many states, Maryland has a backup system in its hospitals, which are forbidden from turning away patients, said.

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