Andrew A. Green, Baltimore Sun, June 22
The Ehrlich administration has begun sending letters to thousands of low-income legal immigrants informing them that their children will lose health care benefits next month, and officials are deciding whether to restore funding to help pregnant women, as demanded by the legislature.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 eliminated a $7 million Medicaid program for children and pregnant women in low-income families who are legal permanent residents, about 4,000 people statewide. Earlier this year, legislators attempted to restore $1.5 million to cover pregnant women, but Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said yesterday that the administration has not decided whether to comply with the request — which was written into the state budget.
The fate of the program is wrapped up in an intensifying dispute between the legislature and the governor about the General Assembly’s budget powers. The confrontation erupted last week in controversies about whether the administration would fund programs such as the state’s prevailing wage office and Challenge Grants that aim to improve test scores and behavior in struggling schools.
Yesterday, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, an all-but-declared candidate for governor in 2006 whose county has the largest concentration of immigrants in the state, called the idea of cutting health care for pregnant women “unconscionable” in a sharply worded letter to the governor.