A Personal Perspective on Getting Engaged with Us

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How do we measure the "health" of Consumer Health First?  in part, by the active engagement of our thousands of members, partners, and friends.  Here are four easy ways to engage with us. 

#1 - Get Engaged: Giving Tuesday- 28 November 2017

There are many reasons to support Consumer Health First. They include a strong Record of Success. But - number one is making a donation. Thanks to some super CHF Champions your donation on Giving Tuesday will be matched up to $3,000.  I know you will hear this same message from lots of great organizations. But, I want to make this personal by telling you why I have worked for, and supported, CHF for more than a decade. It is because I agree with Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

And we've made incredible progress. Unfortunately, last year's election has meant that we are moving backward rather than forwards, on this goal. That was abundantly clear at a conference I attended last week with 80 health policy and advocacy wonks representing 34 states and the District of Columbia. We came together to discuss, not only the challenges we currently face but also to identify opportunities to move our agenda forward. Ironically, two events that happened on the conference's second-day highlight both the challenges and opportunities: 

  • First, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their new "vision" for the Medicaid program and CMS Administrator, Seema Verma, spoke to the State Medicaid Directors. She used words that we would agree with "Flexibility, Accountability, and Integrity." However, we are reading from different dictionaries because Ms. Verma's are defined within the context of a belief that the ACA's expansion of Medicaid was unwise. One need only read the new policies that no longer focus on expanding eligibility and services. Rather, some of the objectives are to promote "upward mobility" and "greater independence." What does that really mean? Work requirements, drug testing, and time limitations are a few examples of steps that we may see approved by CMS soon. We don't want those in Maryland!
  • Second, voters turned out in large numbers in states like Virginia and New Jersey to make the statement that health care is important to them. And in Maine, voters won their right to expand Medicaid in their state.

That's why I am personally asking you to make a donation to CHF on Giving Tuesday, November 28. Your gift means that we can continue our work to bring the voice of consumers to the: (1) passage of key legislation; (2) process of writing regulations that put the needs of individuals first; and (3) implementation of initiatives that advance our mission of health equity.

#2 - Get Engaged: Tell Us What You Think 

Last week a member of our Facebook community wrote to say that she had been shopping for an affordable plan. She had compared prices and discovered that premiums were considerably lower in the District of Columbia and wondered why. We are researching that question now. So, please, join us on Facebook and Twitter, or send us your questions or comments. We promise to respond.

#3 - Get Engaged: Tell Us Your Story 

There is no more powerful policy and advocacy tool than the stories of those who are impacted by the decisions made by elected officials and policymakers. Whether it is the mother whose child's Medicaid coverage was ended due to a "clerical error." Or, the small business owner who can't afford the increased insurance premiums. Or, the individual in need of mental health services who can't get an appointment in a timely manner. All are the predicate for our strategic agenda. 

Please, share your stories on our website or send them directly to us. We will use them to identify policy areas that should be addressed.  

#4 - Get Engaged & Engage Others 

The fact that you are reading this means that you have probably already signed up for our weekly e-letters. If not, then now is the time. I would also encourage you to share this with colleagues, friends, and family so that, like you, they can stay informed about health care reform efforts in Maryland and around the country. It is easy to join here.

The more informed and engaged we all are the better our chance of addressing Martin Luther King, Jr.'s call to arms. 

Don't Forget - Giving Tuesday, November 28 

Go here to learn how we will use your donation and, don't forget, your support on November 28 will be doubled! Thank you! 

Leni's Signature 200.png

President, Consumer Health First


Save the Date! November 28 is Giving Tuesday!

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As one of Maryland's leading health policy, education, and advocacy organizations, Consumer Health First has been out in front working to protect the gains made by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) even as we continue to promote innovations that advance our goal of high-quality and comprehensive health care for all Marylanders. This is work we can't do alone - we need you!

On Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017, you can make a difference with your tax-deductible donation made via Pay Pal or Credit Card. This year we are excited to announce that generous Consumer Health First champions have offered to match all donations received that day dollar for dollar up to $3,000. This means your dollars are doubled! 

Consumer Health First Makes a Difference!

2017: Consumer Health First continued its leadership role in numerous areas:

  • Pushing back on the rising insurance premiums - we were the only consumer organization to submit substantial comments based on actuarial analyses;
  • Assuring that Marylanders can access the timely care promised by their insurance carriers - we represented consumer interests as network adequacy regulations were being developed. We anticipate Maryland's new regulations to be among the strongest in the nation;
  • Organizing a Medicaid Collaborative - with 20 leading statewide organizations; we work to ensure that Maryland's vital safety net program remains strong;
  • Serving as Maryland's primary educational and advocacy resource for State and Federal legislative and regulatory activities.

2018: Consumer Health First's highest priority will be to continue the fight for equal access to healthcare for all Marylanders. To date, consumer advocates have narrowly killed three efforts by Congress to "repeal and replace" the ACA, but we continue to see actions taken that would undermine it. Consumer Health First will continue to lead the effort to ensure that policymakers put the consumer, not other interests, first, as new initiatives are implemented and budget cuts to state programs are proposed. We will continue to lead efforts to ensure consumers have access to:

  • affordable insurance options; 
  • provider networks that meet consumers' needs;
  • comprehensive and culturally competent care; 
  • consumer-centric models of care via health literacy and engagement activities; and
  • critical protections no matter where individuals receive their care. 

Mark Your Calendar for Giving Tuesday, November 28!

Open Enrollment is Underway and Setting Records!

Open Enrollment began on November 1st, and goes until December 15th. Despite negative actions at the Federal level, Maryland saw quite a surge in website visits and enrollments in the first few days of the campaign. In fact, enrollments were up 100% for the first 6 days of enrollment compared to the same period last year: 10,420 in 2017 vs. 5,212 in 2016. Perhaps the most telling number is that changes for 2018 plans to existing 2017 enrollment plans were up nearly 270%, indicating a lot of people are switching from the higher premium plans to plans with lower premiums and deductibles.

Nationwide, enrollment numbers were also up and set new records for the first days of enrollment.

Consumer Health First is grateful to the Maryland Exchange - their pro-active approach has led to these very positive numbers which affirm the public’s recognition of the value of the ACA and health care more broadly. 

We can see this same perspective in the outcome of yesterday’s election.  

Therefore, we encourage all consumers that seek assistance as they shop carefully to make sure they get the best plan at the most affordable price. That said,  we must continue to work to hold such an costs to drive affordability. 

Don't wait! Go to www.marylandhealthconnection.gov   today, compare rates, and enroll. Don't forget, if you don't qualify to receive a federal subsidy, it will be less expensive to purchase a Silver plan off the Exchange this year or look at Bronze and Gold plans for savings on premiums.

Open Enrollment is going on now and ends Dec. 15th, 2017 for Coverage Starting January 1, 2018. 


L-R: Secolari store manager, Stephanie; Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston; and Secolari owner, Mary de Rosa

L-R: Secolari store manager, Stephanie; Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston; and Secolari owner, Mary de Rosa

Thanks to all who joined us at Secolari yesterday - either in person or on-line.  Unfortunately, Consumer Health First doesn’t know who you are so we can’t thank you directly. However, we are truly grateful for your generosity. And, we also thank the wonderful people at Secolari for donating 15% of all sales to us. Here’s to healthy holidays for all!

Happy National Vinegar Day!! Pucker Up and Celebrate With Us

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All day - TODAY ONLY - come to the Secolari store in Columbia, or shop online, and put a dent in your Holiday shopping list while helping Consumer Health First!

Secolari is a purveyor of artisanal oils, vinegar, and other gourmet treats, and they are generously donating 15% of all purchase made in-store and online today to help Consumer Health First as we work to advance health care reform throughout Maryland.

So, stop in and say hi, or, if you are tied up at work, live in another part of the state, or even out of state - pop online and take a look around for a great cause.

Maryland Responds to the Suspension of Cost Reduction Subsidy (CSR) Payments

On October 12, President Trump announced that he would be ending the Cost Sharing Subsidy (CSR) payments to insurers, designed to protect carriers from large financial losses incurred in ACA Exchanges. Attorney General Brian Frosh joined a lawsuit filed by 18 State Attorney Generals to halt the withdrawal. Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer allowed carriers to file new rates for the individual market for the 2018 plan year, held a public rate hearing on Monday, and announced new premiums for on-Exchange silver plans yesterday. 

Consumer Health First sent a letter to Commissioner Redmer, requesting that any new rates be added ONLY to the on-Exchange Silver plans and we are pleased the MIA agreed with us. While we lament any premium increases, Commissioner Redmer’s actions provide the greatest protection for Maryland consumers.

  • By increasing the cost of the on-Exchange Silver plans, eligible Maryland consumers will receive a higher dollar amount for the premium tax credit. Some consumers may now be able to buy an on-Exchange Bronze plan at no cost or an on-Exchange Gold plan at a nominally higher cost than an on-Exchange Silver plan.
  • Maryland consumers who do not qualify for a premium tax credit should consider purchasing Silver plans OFF the Exchange as the price will be significantly higher on the Exchange.
  • This year, in particular, Maryland consumers should seek professional assistance from an insurance broker or navigator when considering plan options in the individual market. 

National Response to the Suspension of CSR Payments

The lawsuit filed by the 18 State Attorney Generals requested an immediate injunction to require the Federal government to continue CSR payments. A federal judge in California denied the request for an injunction citing the fact that most states, including Maryland, were already making plans to adjust to the lack of CSRs, and did not want insurance carriers to end up "double dipping" if rates were increased and then subsidies were reinstated and noting that a relatively small number of people on most Exchanges would be affected.

Meanwhile, the bi-partisan Murray-Alexander bill received good scores from a CBO analysis of the bill. Nearly $4 billion in tax deficit reductions, no one loses coverage, and no cuts to Medicaid or Medicare services. But, the future of the Murray-Alexander bill hangs in the balance pending a signal from President Trump that he will sign the legislation if the Senate passes the bill.

Other Important Federal Developments

CHIP is still not funded, the rate of uninsured Americans rose for the first time since the ACA was put into place indicating that 3.5 million Americans lost their insurance coverage, and Health and Human Services new Strategic Plan includes a definition that life begins at conception.  Public comments for the plan are being accepted until tomorrow, October 27.

And that was just this week...