Sign On to Our Bill to Create a Medicaid Buy-In Task Force

We have a high priority bill coming up for a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee next Wednesday, for which we need your support:

SB878 / HB1312: Health insurance - Medicaid Buy-In Task Force sets out a strategy that will help to address both access and affordability to health insurance coverage. Consumer Health First is grateful to the bill sponsors, Senator Brian Feldman (D15) and Delegate Ariana Kelly (D16), for taking up our recommendation to explore this important policy option.

The bill would create a Medicaid Buy-In Task Force to study and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on the feasibility of providing consumers with additional health care coverage options. Specifically, it would  address two issues:

  • Affordability: For those who are just above the Medicaid threshold, insurance premiums are often out of reach, and this will allow them to receive financial assistance. With the rapid and dramatic increase in coverage premiums, these individuals, many of whom are self-employed, are now unable to afford health insurance. 
  • Choice of Benefit Plans: For those in the 13 Maryland counties and parts of three others which are currently served by only one insurance carrier, this would offer more choice, at potentially less cost.

We Need You To Take Action: Sign On as a Supporter of the Bill Now!

  • Read our Press Release here.
  • Show your support today. The hearing is scheduled in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, February 21, at 1:00 PM, and we need people to support our testimony. Sign up here to show your support.
  • Share your story - if you have a story that relates to your ability to afford insurance or are impacted by having only one carrier in your area please - tell us your story.

Introducing, Maryland Supports Medicaid!

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A core component of Consumer Health First's mission is to educate the public about important health policies, programs and news. That's why we are thrilled to announce a new public education campaign - Medicaid Supports Maryland.

Medicaid provides health coverage for one in five Marylanders - including one in four children, two in five individuals with disabilities and three in five nursing home residents. The program touches every county in the state, with higher percentages of residents enrolled in western Maryland, Baltimore City and the Lower Eastern Shore.

Based upon polling we commissioned for this campaign, we know that 9 of 10 Marylanders support Maryland's Medicaid program. Those findings were consistent across region, age, gender, race and political party affiliation lines, with 80 percent or more in every demographic subgroup of the survey agreeing.

Our goal for the campaign is to educate the public and policymakers about the crucial role that Medicaid serves in Maryland - both as a safety net health program for low - and middle - income Marylanders, and as an engine driving our state's health systems and economy.

We will also be collecting stories from people across the state to illustrate the broad and diverse reach of the program and the foundational impact on the lives of individuals and our communities. If you would like to share your story about Medicaid, click here.

  • Share this email and spread the word to friends, family, and colleagues. 

"Medicaid serves our friends, neighbors and family members. Consequently, we all benefit from a well-resourced Medicaid program in our state."

 - Kathy Ruben, CHF Executive Director

Support Requested – Medicaid Buy-In Task Force Legislation

The 2018 General Assembly is off to a busy start. As of this morning, 1,670 bills have been introduced in the House and 1,078 in the Senate.  A significant number focus on multiple aspects of access to health coverage and care, and many are specifically designed to mitigate the negative impact of federal actions and, in some cases to improve the Affordable Care Act.  

One high priority for which we ask your support is:

SB878 / HB1312: Health insurance - Medicaid Buy-In Task Force sets out a strategy that will help to address both of these issues. Consumer Health First is grateful to the bill sponsors, Senator Brian Feldman (D15) and Delegate Ariana Kelly (D16), for taking up our recommendation to explore this important policy option.

The bill would create a Medicaid Buy-In Task Force to study and make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on the feasibility of providing consumers with additional health care coverage options. Specifically, it would  address two issues:

  • Affordability: Particularly for those who are just above the threshold to receive financial assistance. With the rapid and dramatic increase in coverage premiums, these individuals, many of whom are self-employed, are now unable to afford health insurance. They include a self-employed woman in Anne Arundel County who can no longer afford her premiums and who  has said, "I hope that I do not have a catastrophic injury or illness before I am eligible for Medicare in three years."
  • Choice of Benefit Plans: Particularly for those in the 13 counties and parts of three others which are served by only one insurance carrier.

Take Action:

  • Read our Press Release here.
  • Show your support today. A hearing is scheduled in the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, February 21, at 1:00 PM, and we need people to support our testimony. Sign up here to show your support.
  • Share your story - if you have a story that relates to your ability to afford insurance or are impacted by having only one carrier in your area please - tell us your story.
  • Donate now to Consumer Health First to support our policy, advocacy and education agenda. We can't do this without you!

Consumer Health First - 2018 Legislative Agenda  

  • Last week we reported on another bill (SB174/HB134 - Health Benefit Plan Premium Rate Review Process) that is based upon Consumer Health First's leadership on Maryland's process to review proposed rates. At the bill hearing (read our testimony) we appreciated hearing of the Maryland Insurance Administration say that CHF is "a great resource to Marylanders on rate review... making sure that we are doing our job."  We look forward to working with the MIA and other stakeholders throughout the session and during the next rate review process this summer. 
  • Another bill that we are following closely is SB387Health Care Access Program - Establishment (Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2018). This is a complex bill that includes provisions relating to a reinsurance program, the individual mandate and more. A hearing is scheduled in the Finance Committee on February 21st at 1:00 PM.
  • On Tuesday, we submitted testimony for SB284: Maryland Medical Assistance Program - Dental Coverage for Adults. This bill requires Medicaid to provide limited dental coverage for adults beginning on January 1, 2020. You can read our testimony here. The Baltimore Sun has more details on this bill and its importance.
  • There are many other bills that we have included on our legislative page. We believe these will be of interest to our members although CHF won't necessarily be taking a pro-active approach to them.
  • You can find all of our bills of interest here and watch for weekly updates in this fast-moving session. If there are other bills you think we should be aware of please contact us.

Update From Annapolis..

Consumer Health First had a busy day in Annapolis on Wednesday. First up, we testified in support of a bill we proposed this session: HB 134 (SB 174) - Health Insurance – Health Benefit Plan Premium Rate Review Process. This bill was introduced by Sen. Thomas Middleton and Del. Ariana Kelly, as a vehicle to provide the Maryland Insurance Commissioner with additional tools for the analysis of annually proposed health insurance rates. These tools include taking into consideration the:

  • Past and prospective loss experience, in and outside the State, including specific experience with high-risk members.
  • Impact the rate increase will have on improving health outcomes and lower claims cost for enrollees.
  • Mission of nonprofit health plans to provide affordable, accessible health insurance, support initiatives for the uninsured, and promote health care system integration. 

You can read our testimony in support of this legislation here.

Next up, we testified in opposition to HB 115 (SB 13) - Electronic Prescription Records Cost Saving Act of 2018. Introduced by Sen. Jim Rosapepe, and Delegate Dan Morhaim et.al, the bill requires dispensers to submit prescription drug information to the Health Information Exchange and allows health care providers to access patient medication history, including those by another provider.

This would include information about such sensitive health issues as contraception, pain treatment and medications for mental health conditions. Therefore, Consumer Health First opposes this bill on the grounds of concerns about patient privacy, given recent data breaches and the need for more safeguards.

You can read our testimony in opposition to this bill here.

And finally, last week, we testified in support of SB 29 - State Government - Websites - Language Access, which was introduced by Senator Cheryl Kagan. It is designed to strengthen the requirements for most state agencies to provide equal access versions of their websites in popular non-English languages spoken by at least 0.5% of the State population.  

You can read our testimony in support of this bill here.

Science, Not Ideology, Should Drive Health Policy

Consumer Health First Board Member, Ellen Weber, Vice President for Health Initiatives at the Legal Action Center, co-authored a Maryland Matters commentary this week, arguing that for many with opioid addiction, medication assisted treatment is essential and most effective. Her commentary was in direct response to another recent commentary by former Del. Matt Mossberg, which is critical of the use of FDA approved medications to achieve sustained recovery.

The authors go on to stress that Maryland must continue to focus efforts on building an effective and robust treatment infrastructure in the state, and on increasing access to the full continuum of care for substance use disorders, as required by the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.

Medicaid Work Requirement Guidelines Issued

Yesterday, CMS announced "new policy guidance for states to test community engagement for able-bodied adults," otherwise known in common vernancular as work requirements. CMS is framing this announcement as a way to support state efforts to improve Medicaid recipient health outcomes by incentivizing work for "able-bodied, working-age Medicaid beneficiaries." The policy is in response to 10 states that have requested a "115 Medicaid Waiver" demonstration program under which work or "participation in other community engagement activities"- which include things like skills training, education, job search, volunteering or caregiving - qualify as a condition for Medicaid eligibility. Excluded from the program are the disabled, elderly, children, and pregnant women, who make up the majority of Medicaid recipients. The 10-page letter issued yesterday, argues that working promotes good health and repeatedly asserts that the change fits within the program's objectives. 

Critics argue that able bodied individuals who are collecting Medicaid and are not sick or caring for family members - or students, are a relatively small portion of the overall Medicaid population, which now covers one in every five Americans and is the nation's largest insurance program. Also, many Medicaid recipients already work full time, but have wages so low that they still qualify for Medicaid. Recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, and JAMA put the true number of able bodied, non elderly, unemployed (i.e. not a caregiver, student, or volunteer), and not retired, at somewhere between 13%-25% of the Medicaid ranks, and most of those are older workers (51-64). They also argue that the cost of implementing and administering such a program may not result in much cost saving.

In Maryland, of the more than 1.2 million Medicaid recipients in the state, 390,000 are classified as non disabled, or non elderly. 74% of them are working or have a family member already working. 

Of the 10 states that have applied for the waiver program, Kentucky may be the first state to enact the new requirements - perhaps as early as today.