- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2005

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The Legal Aid Bureau Inc. notified the Ehrlich administration yesterday that it will file a lawsuit on behalf of six children, including a 7-year-old boy with cancer, unless the state resumes providing health care for children and pregnant women who are legal immigrants.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed cutting the Medicaid program to save $7 million in the budget he submitted to the legislature in January.

“For a paltry savings of $7 million out of an overall Medical Assistance budget of $4 billion, the state eliminated health care for these vulnerable legal immigrants who have lived in the country for fewer than five years,” said Regan Bailey, a Legal Aid Bureau attorney for the six children.

“Our claim largely is that this is a violation of the constitutional equal protection [rights] based on alienage, meaning citizenship,” she said.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich, said the administration would have no response to the Legal Aid Bureau notice.

The state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene proposed eliminating the program for legal immigrants as part of its plan to reduce its budget.

Since the budget cuts were approved, the Maryland economy improved and tax revenues increased sharply, leaving the state with a surplus at the end of fiscal 2005 on June 30 of about $1 billion, including more than $600 million that had not been set aside for the current 2

budget.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has been under pressure from advocates for children and immigrants, Democrats and even some members of his party to restore the $7 million now that the state’s financial picture has improved.

Douglas Bregman, another attorney for the children, said their need “for medical care is immediate and significant.”

“One of them, a 7-year-old boy, has cancer, which is currently in remission. But his condition requires constant monitoring,” Mr. Bregman said.

Miss Bailey said the lawsuit could be filed as soon as Monday in Prince George’s County Circuit Court if there is no response from the governor’s office.

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