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Families May Need Proof of Kids' Health Insurance for Tax Forms

By Annapolis Notebook
Friday, February 8, 2008

Maryland would require families to report proof of health insurance coverage for their children on their tax filings, and beginning in three years families with uninsured children would no longer qualify for the state's child tax exemptions, under legislation to be introduced today.

The Support the Kids First Act, to be introduced by Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery), is designed to help the state identify which children are uninsured. The comptroller's office, which collects state taxes, would be required to use tax filings to determine which uninsured children from low-income families qualify for the Maryland Children's Health Plan. The law also would require the office to send enrollment forms and other literature to qualifying families.

Mizeur said Maryland would become the first state with such a requirement.

There are an estimated 90,000 children who are eligible for the state's insurance program but are not enrolled, Mizeur said.

"The goal is getting everyone covered," she said. "Right now, 10 percent of our children are uninsured in Maryland and that's a despicable figure. . . . We can do better and we should."

Mizeur said she drafted the bill after meeting with Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene John M. Colmers, state insurance administrators and Del. Peter A. Hammen (D-Baltimore), who chairs the House Health and Government Operations Committee.

"I have reason to believe that all of those folks will be on board with this concept," Mizeur said.

She said the law might increase the state's health-care costs if more children enroll in the insurance plan but noted that the law does not open up the program to more children.

"I'm not changing the eligibility to say more people qualify -- although I'd like to," Mizeur said. "But first things first: Let's get everybody who qualifies enrolled."

-- Philip Rucker

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