House Bill 42 is sponsored by Delegates Adelaide C. Eckardt, Marilyn R. Goldwater and Shirley Nathan-Pulliam.
Bill challenges CareFirst
State legislators want to put the onus on CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and its suitor.
Several state delegates have introduced emergency legislation -- House Bill 2 -- that would require a nonprofit health organization to convince the state's insurance commissioner and attorney general that its proposed conversion and sale would benefit the citizens of Maryland. Current law only requires a nonprofit to submit a for-profit conversion plan, which is evaluated by the insurance commissioner.
"While there already is a process to deal with the CareFirst conversion, at the end of the day they need to delineate that this conversion and sale is in the best interest of all Marylanders," said Del. Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel Democrat who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee. "This bill would shift the burden of proof from the state to CareFirst."
A senator-sponsored version of the bill is expected to be cross-filed. CareFirst officials have said they will not oppose the bill.
"I think this bill will pass," Busch said. "I don't think anyone can vote against this bill."
Owings Mills-based CareFirst, Mary-land's largest health insurer, announced in November plans to convert and sell to WellPoint Health Networks Inc. (http://www.wellpoint.com
) of California. Everyone from elected officials to health industry experts to business leaders have questioned CareFirst's motives for the transaction.
It is expected that several pieces of legislation related to the conversion and sale of CareFirst (http://www.carefirst.com
) will be introduced during this General Assembly session. Through legislation passed last year, the assets from the conversion on the company would go into a foundation to address health care needs that have not yet been identified.
Bigger ER at St. Joe
St. Joseph Medical Center finally is getting around to the ER expansion they talked about more than a year ago.
The Towson hospital announced plans last week to nearly double the size of its existing emergency department. The $12 million expansion would increase the ER's size to 21,000 square feet and add 10 new patient rooms.
The expansion, which is in response to a growing strain on the existing emergency department, will be the hospital's first ER overhaul since it opened in 1965. St. Joseph's emergency department treats about 40,000 people a year.
The project is expected to be complete by September 2003. Officials of the hospital had announced plans during the summer of 2000 to renovate the ER, but a lack of available capital and changes to the plans postponed the start of construction.
The plans also call for the addition of six beds for St. Joseph's chest pain center, a decontamination room and a new digital cardiac catheterization laboratory.
News & notes
Two new grants totaling $865,973 will help advance environmental research and education at the University of Maryland School of Nursing (http://www.umaryland.edu
). The school plans to expand its master's degree program in community/public health with a $430,463 grant from the U.S. Health Resource Services Administration, Division of Nursing. Meanwhile, a $435,510 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will fund a one-year educational project in Baltimore's Park Heights neighborhood.
Dr. Paul R. McHugh, a psychiatrist with Johns Hopkins Hospital, has been appointed to President Bush's 18-member council on bioethics. The council will advise the president on ethical and social issues related to biomedical and other areas of scientific research. McHugh was psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital (http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org
) for 26 years.
Harbor Hospital and the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health recently struck a deal that will bring a portion of the National Institute on Aging to the Baltimore hospital.
As part of a 10-year, $1.2 million deal, the NIA's longitudinal study of aging will move to Harbor's fifth floor. The NIA branch previously was located at it Gerontology Research Center in Baltimore.