The challenges of 2017 hardly need a recounting, but they included three bills designed to "repeal," not replace, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). All were defeated thanks in no small part to the strength of advocates across the nation. Then, there is the continued absence of funding for CHIP and community health centers, and efforts to limit eligibility in Medicaid while proposing block grants or per capita caps that would devastate this vital safety net program. Further challenges are reflected in regulations designed to weaken outreach and enrollment efforts. And, just this week we learned that there is an effort to ban the use of certain words in government budget request documents that include fetus, diversity, vulnerable and evidence-based.
As we move into 2018, we have no illusions that such efforts will continue to negatively impact the health of individuals and our communities. Therefore, we are thankful that the majority of Maryland's leaders have stood strong against this onslaught and we know they will do so in the future. We are also grateful for our many partners, who have worked diligently to seize all opportunities to mitigate any harm from Federal actions while continuing to advance health reform in Maryland.
As a result, we did make some progress this year. Here, you can find a list of our policy and advocacy agenda since passage of the ACA, and under the umbrella of our Health Care. Keep It! campaign, we had a number of major achievements this year. They include:
- Maryland Medicaid Collaborative - Consumer Health First brought together twenty organizations, representing the 1 in 5 Marylanders covered by the Medicaid, to address and/or mitigate any proposed alterations to the program at either the state or federal level. This Collaborative builds upon CHF's work to get included in the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act language that will require the Maryland Departments of Health and Human Services to collaborate with stakeholders on "changes to, or redesign of" the Medicaid program;
- Network Adequacy Regulations - Following passage of our bill to require quantitative and qualitative standards in 2016, we saw regulations promulgated that are among the most stringent in the country. These include both wait time and distance standards, as well as greater transparency of carriers' access plans and compliance with those standards. A big win for Marylander!
- 2017 Legislation - This year's General Assembly addressed a number of challenges posed by Federal action. These included the Family Planning Services Act - Continuity of Care to ensure Medicaid coverage for family planning services should Congress cut funding; and the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Act, establishing a Commission to prepare recommendations for the Governor and General Assembly.
- Active Advocacy on all levels - Consumer Health First has:
- Participated in multiple committees, including: HSCRC Consumer-Standing Advisory Committee and Performance Measures Workgroup; MHBE Standing Advisory and Plan Management Stakeholder Committees and the Standardized Benefit Plan Workgroup; and the SB340 Health in All Policies Workgroup;
- Participated in multiple events across the state;
- Gained media coverage - both state and national; and
- Submitted endless comments on everything from the new HHS Strategic Plan to Maryland's Plan Certification Standards.
In some areas, such as the effort to keep insurance rates down, we have been less successful, but that isn't for lack of trying! Our work on Maryland's rate review process will continue in 2018 as will all of our other efforts to ensure that Maryland is a state that fully recognizes and acts upon the goal of health equity with access for all.
Next year, we will continue to be the voice for Maryland's health care consumers (that's all of us) and we will be launching an exciting new education campaign. Stay tuned!
Today, though, we need your help. We recognize that there continue to be many challenges ahead, but there are also opportunities that Consumer Health First is uniquely qualified to address. Please make a year-end donation. Just as we ask Marylanders to become more engaged in their health care, we ask you to engage with Consumer Health First.
- Send a check made payable to Consumer Health First, P. O. Box 59202, Potomac, MD 20854
- Or just press the Donate button in the menu bar above.