Statement from Board of Directors on Decision to Dissolve Consumer Health First

Celebrating 13 years of promoting access, quality, and equity through coalition building and advocacy on behalf of Maryland’s health care consumers

After engaging with a consultant and thinking deeply about what it would take to sustain our work, Consumer Health First’s Board of Directors has determined it is time to dissolve the organization.

We are proud of the role that Consumer Health First, as a voice for consumers, has played in making Maryland a national model for health care reform over the past 13 years. From expanding coverage for children in 2007 to supporting the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, to improving the health insurance marketplace, and creating a consumer-centered health care delivery system today, you can read more about our accomplishments here

Consumer Health First launched as the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform in 2006. Since then, we have been driven by the dedication, expertise and passion of our all-volunteer board to promote health equity through access to comprehensive, high quality and affordable health care for all Marylanders. 

In 2016, the organization wanted to ensure its long-term sustainability. The Coalition transformed to become a 501(c)(3) organization and rebranded as Consumer Health First. That came with a commitment to transition to a nonprofit governance structure for the Board of Directors with a paid staff to fully implement its strategic objectives. 

That transition, however, turned out to be more challenging than anticipated due to both internal and external factors. As a result, Consumer Health First’s Board voted to dissolve the organization. 

Since our founding we have depended on the commitment of countless individuals, who have shared their time and expertise, to further a shared health equity mission. In addition, we have relied upon the support of our major funders – Open Society Institute-Baltimore, Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, and Raising Women’s Voices – as well as countless private donors, and our state and national organizational partners. Our thanks go out to each and every one of them. 

As Consumer Health First comes to a close, many on the Board will continue their own roles as health policy advocates. We also urge everyone who has been vital to our success to continue their own commitment to elevate the consumer voice and to ensure that Maryland continues to advance the goal of equitable access to health care that puts the needs and interests of consumers first.

Thank you for 13 great years!

Submit Your Comments on the State Benchmark Plan by July 13

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange was tasked to create a workgroup to help determine whether the current benchmark plan meets the needs of the individual market. Consumer Health First founder and Board Member, Leni Preston chaired the workgroup., which concluded its work on April 26, 2019. The workgroup has drafted recommendations to be presented to the MHBE Board of Trustees on whether to modify the current State Benchmark Plan.

MHBE is seeking comments on the State Benchmark Plan Work Group Draft Report, and will incorporate comments until July 13, 2019.

For more information about the State Benchmark Plan Work Group and their progress, click the link.

You may also send written comments to

Also, today (6/14), is the last meeting of MHBE’s Affordability Workgroup, of which CHF President, Dr. Beth Sammis, co-chaired. Stay tuned for the outcome from that group’s efforts.

Insurance Carriers Submit 2020 Rate Requests to Maryland Insurance Administration for Approval

“The 2020 rate requests are particularly good news for those in Maryland's individual market," said Consumer Health First President, Beth Sammis. She went on to cite the positive impact of Maryland's reinsurance program in an article in the Baltimore Sun.  

The Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) expects to issue its final rate decisions by mid-September. There will be a public meeting on July 16, 2019 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at the MIA. Consumer Health First will be there to provide our analysis of the rates. The public can attend that and also provide comments in advance on specific carriers' requested rates by going here.

Carriers proposed the following average rate changes in the individual market:

  • CareFirst BlueChoice Inc. HMO – a -8.9% decrease;

  • CareFirst of Maryland Inc. and Group Hospitalization and Medical Services Inc. (GHMSI) (both CareFirst companies) PPO – a +9.1% increase;

  • Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States HMO – a +3.9% increase

In response to these requests, Consumer Health First President, Beth Sammis stated that:

“The proposed rate filings for 2020 for the individual market bring another year of good news for consumers. CareFirst is proposing to further decrease its premiums for its HMO plans and Kaiser proposes an increase far below what it is asking for in the small group market (3.9 vs 10 percent). During the rate review process, we’ll want to see the estimates CareFirst and Kaiser used for the reinsurance program to be sure both have included the full value of this program in their rates.

The exhibits demonstrate a membership increase of 13.4 percent in the individual market this year in comparison to 2018. Moreover, one-third of all those in the individual market bought a gold plan this year suggesting consumers took advantage of the premium decreases to lower their out-of-pocket costs. 

The reinsurance program has demonstrated it is possible to stabilize and grow this market. As we move forward, Consumer Health First will press policymakers to consider other opportunities for keeping the individual market stable and vibrant once the reinsurance program ends in 2023. We see the most hope in a public option through a Medicaid Buy-In program.

Today, though, we must congratulate the Governor, the General Assembly, the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, and the Insurance Commissioner for implementing the reinsurance program and celebrate the gains Maryland has made to stabilize and grow the individual market.”

Thanks for Attending

If you were one of the many folks who tuned into our free webinar - “Wins, Losses, & Opportunities: Consumer Perspectives on 2019 General Assembly,” we thank you for tuning in!

For those who did, and for those that couldn’t join us, here is the link to the complete presentation.

Thanks to our presenters:

  • Beth Sammis, Ph.D., President of Consumer Health First

  • Ellen Weber, JD, Vice President for Health Initiatives, Legal Action Center, and Board Member, Consumer Health First

  • Leni Preston, Founder and Board Member, Consumer Health First

They brought a wealth of knowledge to the topic to really give you a behind the scenes look at why some legislation made it, why others didn’t, and what to expect going forward. If you have suggestions for further webinar topics, please send them to us!



Feeling a bit left behind because you haven't seen the latest Avengers movie or the most recent episode of Game of Thrones everyone's talking about? Well, then get ahead of the game and catch up on all of the health policy action that went down in this year's General Assembly and hear more about the issues we need to focus on going forward. 

So, don't wait - register now for the free webinar on May 6 from Noon to 1:30 p.m. Consumer Health First's team of Beth Sammis, Ellen Weber, and Leni Preston will share their insights on the legislation that passed (and didn't). We also want to hear from you - let's work together to make equitable access to coverage and care a reality for all Marylanders. 

Click Here to Register

The Governor's next bill signing is tomorrow - you can find out when bills will be signed by going here.

Don't Be Left Out!

Register Today 

For Our FREE Webinar

Wins, Losses and Opportunities: 

 Consumer Perspectives

on 2019 General Assembly

May 6, 2019 - Noon to 1:30 pm

Consumer Health First Applauds Legislation to Promote Healthy Pregnancies

With unanimous support, the Maryland General Assembly has passed HB 127/SB 36 - Health Benefit Plans - Special Enrollment for Pregnancy legislation that creates the opportunity for uninsured women who become pregnant to get health insurance through a special enrollment period. The bill now goes to Governor Hogan's desk for his signature. Maryland will then become just the third state, with New York and Connecticut, to deem pregnancy to be a "life-qualifying" event that allows women to gain health care coverage outside the six-week open enrollment period. This applies to those women who purchase private insurance through Maryland Health Connection.

Beth Sammis, Consumer Health First President said, “We find it hard to conceive of the fact that, until now, uninsured women could only get health insurance at the time they gave birth and not during the critical prenatal period. That made no sense, and, since 2016 when the legislation was first introduced, we have said so. Now, with the strong leadership of Delegate Ariana Kelly (D-16) and Senator Clarence Lam (D-12) we can ensure that Maryland supports a policy of healthy moms and healthy babies.

The Affordable Care Act established an annual open enrollment period during which individuals could purchase their own health insurance. To address those with life and/or income-changes at other times in the year, such as marriage, divorce, and adoption, "Special Enrollment Periods" were created. But, pregnancy was not included as a life-qualifying event for enrollment. The result was that some uninsured women could be precluded from getting the prenatal services they require for their own health and that of their babies, unless they are eligible for Medicaid.  

Under this new legislation, women must receive certification of their pregnancy from their health care provider. They then have 90 days to apply for coverage. Their coverage will be effective from the first day of the month in which they enroll. Timely and appropriate maternity care provides the promise of better outcomes for both mother and baby and is particularly important for women of color who are disproportionately impacted by pregnancy-related health disparities. 

Ms. Sammis said, "In New York, from February 2017 to October 2018, just over 400 pregnant women gained commercial health insurance under a similar law. So, while this will involve a relatively small number of women in Maryland, its impact will be substantial - in the health and well-being of individuals and reduced health care costs due to healthier pregnancies. That's a win-win for everyone."