Democrats Shy about Backing HMO Repeal; GOP Seeks to Kill Tax

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Byline: Robert Redding Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES

ANNAPOLIS - Democratic lawmakers who opposed medical-malpractice insurance reform legislation that levied a tax on health maintenance organizations are reluctant to say whether they will support Republican efforts to repeal it.

HMOs said last week that they will pass on to their customers the 2 percent tax, costing the average family about $200 more a year in health insurance premiums.

"My people cannot afford an insurance premium increase," said Delegate Tony E. Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat who would not say whether he would support repealing the tax.

"The 2 percent tax is regressive," said Delegate Marshall T. Goodwin, Baltimore Democrat, adding that he did not know of an effort to repeal the tax.

Republican leaders last week announced they would submit legislation aimed at repealing the tax.

Democratic lawmakers - who outnumber Republicans by 2-1 margins in both chambers of the General Assembly - enacted the tax when they overrode Mr. Ehrlich's veto last month, despite his warning that HMOs would pass on the tax to their customers.

Democratic leaders championed the legislation and the new tax.

Sen. Roy Dyson of Calvert County was one of two Democratic senators who voted to sustain Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s veto of the medical-malpractice bill that included the HMO tax.

"Taxes are always an issue for me," Mr. Dyson said. "I would like to see [tax-repeal legislation] on paper. …