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January 6, 2005

In Annapolis, Dems Take the Easy Way Out

John P. Snyder

Recall the old legislator's code of honor. "I won't tax you," it goes, "you don't tax me, we'll tax that fellow behind the tree."

By voting to increase HMO premiums by 2% to cover medical malpractice insurance shortfalls, Annapolis Democrats were gutless and irresponsible. And they fell into Governor Robert Ehrlich's trap.

Say what you will about Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), but they were not the cause of the current fix some medical practitioners find themselves in. Those who are enrolled with them, it seems, either love them or hate them.

Health insurance is a commodity that never costs less. As a necessity, it is cruel to tack on additional tax that will be absorbed by those who struggle to pay their premiums.

But since HMO's covers fewer Marylanders than other health care providers, it is an easy target for lazy legislators on the prowl for fresh new revenue streams.

God forbid that steps to protect the medical profession in our state be seriously studied. California made reforms that everyone could live with. They would be unappealing to the ambulance chasers in our state, so nothing gets done; except, of course, increasing the taxes on those paying for health care coverage for themselves, their families and their employees.

The money needed to provide the fund for the stop gap measure could have come from the general fund. But no, that would put some other well intentioned government sacred cow program in jeopardy. Better to raise taxes on the chumps with HMO policies.

With nary a shrug or sigh, State Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch have signed on to a tax increase on health care. Governor Ehrlich, by virtue of his opposition and subsequent veto of this measure, insures his status as the last firewall between the Democrats in Annapolis and the beleaguered Maryland taxpayer.

The Democrats in Annapolis, including our own Stepford Husband Galen Claggett, might consider how many of those "fellow behind the tree" are independents, and moderate to conservative Democrats ready to re-elect Bob Ehrlich in 2006.

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