Baltimore Sun Letter to the Editor from Consumer Health First President

Gov. Larry Hogan's administration should be relatively pleased by Maryland's 7.5 (out of 10) rating in the 2017 National Health Security Preparedness Index developed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ("Report: Maryland better prepared than average for public health emergency," April 22).

However, it's critical to note that Maryland's ability to deal with a health-related emergency would be severely hurt by budget cuts and policy changes proposed by Congress and the Trump administration. These include major cuts to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of particular concern is a proposal included in the Republicans' American Health Care Act that would ax the entire budget for the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which focuses on preventive efforts that reduce health care costs.

These funding cuts, and the AHCA provisions to dramatically scale back Medicaid by turning it into a block grant program, completely contradict the adage "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." These spending reductions will, quite simply, put the lives of Marylanders at risk.

Every effort must be made to stop such cuts, and it is time for Governor Hogan to speak out against proposals that will only hurt Maryland and the entire nation.

Leni Preston - President, Consumer Health First

Consumer Health First In Action

As we are every year, Consumer Health First was very active in the General Assembly Session which will close on Monday, April, 10. A major focus of this year's legislative activity was to prepare the state for anticipated changes at the federal level that could adversely impact Marylanders’ access to health coverage and care.

“The Affordable Care Act remains under serious threat at the federal level,” said CHF Executive Director Jeananne Sciabarra. “Taking meaningful steps in Annapolis to preserve key aspects of the ACA was a critical priority for Consumer Health First. We applaud the legislature for acknowledging the value of the ACA to their constituents and taking steps to limit the harm that could be done to them through repeal efforts.”

Read our April 6 press release for more information about the bills we supported to protect the ACA in Maryland. For complete details of all the bills we supported this Session, go to our Legislative Page.

 Consumer Health First is also making sure consumers have a seat at the table if and when Congress announces cuts in funding to Medicaid as was initially proposed in the American Health Care Act. The bill, which failed to get enough support for a vote in the House at the end of last month, underwent some last minute efforts and late night sessions involving Vice President Pence this week to try and revive the bill for a vote prior to Spring Recess, but those have apparently died for now. 

Meanwhile, a provision added to the state budget at our request, requires state officials to partner with a range of stakeholders on any proposed changes to Medicaid. The budget requirement means consumer advocates, healthcare providers and other experts will have a role in changing Maryland’s Medicaid program in response to policy or budget changes passed by Congress. Read more about this in our April 3rd press release.

ACA vs. AHCA: A Vision of the Future

Last week brought good news in the fight to protect the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), but we fully expect to see further attacks on this legislation in the future. In fact, discussions are already brewing. Because the American Health Care Act (AHCA) provided insight into Republican plans to unwind the ACA and to radically restructure Medicaid, we decided to take a closer look.  

Consumer Health First hosted a webinar entitled "ACA vs AHCA - The Potential Impact in Maryland." The webinar reviewed the impact that the AHCA or similar legislation could have here in Maryland. In addition, it explored what steps could be taken to weaken the ACA through administrative actions.  

We are grateful to our webinar presenters for sharing their expertise:

  • Jeananne Sciabarra, Executive Director, Consumer Health First
  • Ellen Weber, Professor of Law and Director of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law Drug Policy Clinic
  • Joanna Diamond, Vice President of External Relations, Planned Parenthood of Maryland
  • Ben Turner, Program Director, Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County

If you were unable to join the live presentation - don't worry! You can view or download a PDF of the slides, and listen to a live recording of the webinar.

Women’s History Month Rally Held In Annapolis

Consumer Health First was proud to support Women's History Month with a rally in Annapolis on Saturday  organized by Action Not Anger, and co-sponsored by:

The rally was a celebration and recognition of issues important to women, our families, and our communities. US Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressmen Jamie RaskinJohn Sarbanes, and Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston, were among the speakers.

(L-R): Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston; Action Not Anger, Yvette Lewis; US Senator Chris Van Hollen

For local CBS coverage of the story with video  - click here.

Without Enough Votes, The American Health Care Act Is Pulled from House Vote

After moving from "take it or leave it" to multiple rounds of amendments, the House GOP failed to garner the votes needed to pass the American Health Care Act. At a 4:00 p.m. press conference, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that the bill had been pulled. 

Today's outcome is cause for celebration and a recognition that the efforts of advocates around the country and in Maryland had a positive impact. But this issue is not going away and we must not let down our guard. 

What's Next?

  • We will continue to track all proposals coming out of the Administration or Congress that could imperil the advances we have made in Maryland. 
  • We remain extremely concerned about the potential gutting of Medicaid through separate legislation and will continue our vigilance in protecting this critical safety net program. 
  • We will continue to work closely with our partners in both the public and private sectors to ensure that ALL Maryland health care consumers are protected and have the health care they deserve.

What Can You Do?

Donate Now

  • We need your help now more than ever to work towards reforms that strengthen and improve the ACA. Please consider a donation to this critical work.
  • Stay informed - sign up for our updates and join us for a webinar on the impact of the AHCA or similar legislation next Wednesday (see below). Even though the bill was pulled today - we'll review the key things to watch for and their potential impact here in Maryland.
  • Share your story - How has the ACA impacted your life? We often have elected officials contact us for consumer stories.
  • Contact us if you need help organizing an event or want a speaker.
  • Keep us informed of relevant events in your community or issues of particular concern.
  • Speak Out! - Attend the rally this weekend to let your voice be heard - see details below.