Marylanders are getting an early Holiday gift!! The new Executive Director of the Maryland Health Exchange, Michelle Eberle, announced today that Open Enrollment for 2018 will be extended until Friday, December 22nd to allow people more time to shop and sign up for benefits.

In an article in the Baltimore Sun, she stated:

"There is a strong indication that we are going to have a lot of folks coming back for renewal and a lot of new folks who heard about what’s going on,” said Michele Eberle, the incoming executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. “Once again we’re hearing from consumers how important having health coverage is to them. … They’re grateful to have insurance.”

MHBE reports that enrollment is up about 12% above this same period last year, and on the Eastern Shore, numbers are reported to be up by as much as 40%.  But due to the truncated enrollment period and last minute premium increases caused by actions of the Trump administration, MHBE administrators felt this extension would allow people to shop around and consider a more comprehensive gold plan, that could be a better value by reducing deductibles in exchange for slightly higher premiums. Those buying more moderate silver plans should consider buying directly from an insurer, as some premium increases approved by regulators only affect the silver plans bought through the exchange.

Last year, 9 out of 10 Marylanders received financial assistance in purchasing a health plan on the exchange. This year, many people who receive a tax credit may find that their premiums are available at much lower rates than last year, if not for free.

Navigators are standing by, and bi-lingual assistance is available. Enroll today!

With Enrollment Ending this Friday, Former President Obama and Former CMS Chief Andy Slavitt Team Up to Get the Word Out

The Young Invincibles hosted a webinar on Monday, December 11, titled “Open Enrollment Final Push Conference” featuring special guest speakers (former) President Barack Obama and (former) Acting Administrator of CMS, Andy Slavitt. President Obama thanked everyone who does the “on-the-ground “ work for their efforts and their commitment to getting individuals health care coverage despite partisan politics.  He also noted that the goal was, and is still, to have “a health care system that works for everyone”. 

Former First Lady Michelle Obama chimed in too!

Former CMS Commissioner, Andy Slavitt, also thanked everyone and said that “everything you have done makes a difference”.  Both speakers encouraged people to remind everyone of the December 15th deadline coming up this Friday, and they encourage people to tell everyone to use social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) to tell their friends noting that “everyone is at risk if they don't sign up by December 15th."

Visit today. It’s the only place you can get financial help with your health plan. In fact, 9 out of 10 people who got covered through Maryland Health Connection got financial help that lowered the cost of their plan.

Exciting News at Consumer Health First!

Kathy Ruben, M.S., Ph.D.

Kathy Ruben, M.S., Ph.D.

For over a decade Consumer Health First has built the reputation of putting the interests and needs of consumers first as Maryland has designed and implemented our health care reform initiatives. During that time, colleagues have described us as reliable, professional, honest, and fun. Today we are excited to announce a strong new team to address the future. (Read our press release) These appointments underscore the Board's commitment to our mission and to both the stability and sustainability of Consumer Health First.

  • Dr. Kathleen Ruben has taken up the position of Executive Director - effective December 4. Kathy has a Doctorate in Health Services Administration from the University of Maryland School of Public Health and she comes to us with a wealth and depth of experience that will serve to reinforce and expand the value of our work. Most recently she served at the Maryland Health Care Commission, first as an Advanced Health Policy Analyst and more recently as a Program Manager. In that position she worked on the just-released MHCC Report - Transforming Maryland's rural healthcare system: A regional approach to rural healthcare delivery - and on regulations for behavioral health facilities and services in Maryland. 
  • Beth Sammis, who has been serving as CHF Secretary, will become President of the CHF Board on January 1, 2018. She began her career in Maryland at the Department of Legislative Services and more recently served as Acting Insurance Commissioner. She brings not only a depth of expertise to CHF but also a strong sense of humor that will stand us all in good stead as we face both the challenges and opportunities ahead. Beth will be joined by Leni Preston as Vice-President; Mary Lou Fox as Treasurer; and Madeleine Shea as Secretary. With the other members of the Board, CHF continues to have a strong bench to lead the organization into its 13th year of operation.  

For much of Consumer Health First's history, I have been privileged to serve as both President and CEO. Our success has rested upon an outstanding team drawn from among Maryland's leading policy and advocacy experts. Some serve on the CHF Board. For those who may be interested in joining our Board please contact me. Our team also includes our national and state partners, Maryland's elected officials and decision makers, as well as a diversity of other stakeholders.

We are very excited to have Kathy at the head of CHF and we all look forward to joining forces with our many partners to forge a state where health equity is advanced through access to high-quality, comprehensive and affordable health care. 

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Leni Preston, President; Cell: 301.351.9381

Double Your Impact on Giving Tuesday - Help Us Protect the Progress We've Made

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As the President of Consumer Health First, I have long been excited to pursue our health equity agenda in all aspects of health care reform here in Maryland. In doing so, I have a renewed admiration for those who helped build this organization and who have brought the consumers' voice to Maryland's health care reform efforts. There is no doubt about why Consumer Health First has become Maryland's leading health policy and advocacy organization.  

Now, however, we cannot rest on our laurels. We have constantly faced new and challenging issues this past year, even as we continue to move forward on other fronts. To do that we need you! Please make Consumer Health First your first donation on this Giving Tuesday. 

Generous donors have kicked off our Get Engaged and Give campaign with a matching donation of $3,000! Can you match that and help us reach our one-day goal of $20,000?   

Help us continue our critical work raising the voices of Maryland's health care consumers - please give generously today!

Sincerely yours,

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Leni Preston
President, Consumer Health First

Madeleine Shea, Ph.D., Vice-President

Mary Lou Fox, Treasurer            

Elizabeth Sammis, Ph.D., Secretary

Leigh Cobb, JD, MPH

Rev. Debra Hickman, M.Div.

Anne Langley, JD, MPH

Benjamin Turner, MPP, CPHQ

Ellen Weber, JD

Susan Wood, Ph.D.

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! 

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President, Consumer Health First