Charging that Maryland's health care reform law could inconvenience patients and hurt the state's business climate, a national conservative group yesterday cited the 16 legislators who had the "courage" to vote against it.
"There are many problems with today's health care system, and they should be addressed," said Donald Devine, director of the American Conservative Union, a nonprofit lobbying group. "But they only will be made worse with controls such as those enacted in Maryland this year."
The landmark reform measure, which passed the House by 117-14 and the Senate 45-2, is designed to control the cost of health care insurance and physicians' fees and make insurance available for the uninsured. Besides setting up a commission that will ultimately control health care procedures and fees, the law requires insurance companies to make affordable policies available to small companies.
Mr. Devine, a former Reagan administration official who ran unsuccessfully against Democratic state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein in 1978, said such government controls raise the specter of waiting lines of patients and fewer insurance companies willing to write policies.
He presented the legislators with ACU's "Patients' Friend" award and said his group would mount a letter-writing and ad campaign to fight any similar controls that may come from the Clinton administration.
House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County, one of those who voted against the reform measure, said it would only create a "monumental bureaucracy."
Another opponent, Del. Tony E. Fulton, D-Baltimore, called the measure "irresponsible," saying it was approved quickly by lawmakers who had little understanding of how the reform measure would work.
Mr. Devine and the legislative opponents said rather than cost controls, health care reform should look to such areas as tax breaks for purchasers of health insurance.
But House Economic Matters Chairman Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, the lead lawmaker on the reform measure, dismissed the charges as "fear tactics." He noted that the cost of health care is growing far beyond the cost of living. "Some reasonable level of regulation is in the public interest," he said.