2018 - A Banner Year At Maryland Health Connection

On December 17, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange  released the enrollment numbers for 2019 plans and showed an increase of 2% over the previous year. Nationwide,  enrollment was down  about 4%. This great success would not have been possible without the emphasis that the Board and staff placed upon outreach, marketing, and consumer assistance. There are a few numbers worth highlighting from the MHBE press release: 

  • 156,963 - the number of Marylanders who enrolled in private health coverage that is effective on January 1, 2019. A few hundred more whose applications were in process at midnight December 15 will bring the total above 157,000!

  • 5,432 - the number who enrolled on the last day (December 15), and this despite the uncertainty on the future of the ACA created by the decision of the Texas Judge the night before. In fact, this was the highest single-day enrollment in the exchange's history.

  • 38,558 - the number of consumers who used the "Enroll MHC" mobile app on Friday and Saturday. That doubled the number who used the app in the same period in 2017.

  • 4% - the increase over last year in young adult (18-34) enrollees.

  • 28% - the largest increase in enrollments was in Wicomico County.

  • 8% & 2% - the increase in, respectively, African American and Hispanic enrollees over 2018

Somewhat troubling is the fact that new enrollees were down by 10% from 2018. This and other factors that could impact the stability of the individual insurance market will be on Consumer Health First's agenda in 2019. But, for now, our thanks go the MHBE Board, Michele Eberle and her terrific team, and all those who staff Maryland's Connector Entities and others who provide such vital assistance to consumers. Congratulations and happy holidays to one and all!

Texas Hold 'Em - Will It End the ACA?

So here we are. On Friday night, Texas federal Judge Reed O’Connor ruled the ACA unconstitutional because the individual mandate was no longer being enforced. Once again, millions of Americans are being threatened with the loss of affordable health care.

As expected, and perhaps more strongly than ever before, people are jumping to the law’s defense:

  • CA Attorney General Xavier Becerra denounced the ruling and is leading the appeal process.

  • Maryland’s Attorney General, Brian Frosh is also entering the fray and vows to defend the law.

  • Hordes of trade groups, including the American Medical Association, are stunned by the decision.

  • Legal experts on both sides of the political divide have expressed surprise at the ruling and have said the legal rationale behind the ruling is “indefensible, and breaks a long standing legal principle of not throwing the baby out with the bathwater by tossing out an entire law because of one small piece of it, as discussed in the New York Times this weekend.

If the ruling is upheld, millions of people risk losing their healthcare if pre-existing conditions are no longer covered, or being able to afford comprehensive healthcare at all. But the ACA does far more than that:

  • It would remove oversight of the FDA approval for biosimilar drugs.

  • It puts the future of the CMS Innovation Center, which is working to shift the entire healthcare system towards new payment models in doubt. Maryland is a high profile model in the program.

  • It would invalidate the Medicaid expansions, throwing millions of Americans off Medicaid, and would also invalidate Medicaid coverage for children aging out of foster care, expansion of Medicaid community care options for long-term services, and simplification of Medicaid eligibility.

  • It could affect the Indian Health Service which was resurrected under the ACA, as well as a database which scrutinizes payments to doctors from big Pharma and device companies.

This will almost certainly go to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, the law is still in effect, and will be through 2019.

Give A Little Love...

It's December - as you are buying gifts and celebrating the Holiday Season, don't forget about those less fortunate in your giving plans. We here at Consumer Health First work hard every day to do just that: expand health care coverage to those less fortunate, because we believe health care is a right - not a privilege for the few who can afford it. To understand how health insurance has helped change people's lives, read their stories here, and then give generously.

Thank You!

We can't thank you enough for your generosity on Giving Tuesday and throughout the year. 

One reason your support is so important is that it means that we can continue to bring the consumer perspective to Maryland's legislative, policy and regulatory agenda.  For example, just last week:

  • Consumer Health First Vice-President, Leni Preston, spoke at the meeting of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission. She cited CHF's position in support of an individual mandate and urged the Commission to explore options for long-term funding for the reinsurance program. Find video of the meeting and resource materials here

  • She and Beth Sammis, CHF President, met with staff at the Maryland Insurance Administration to discuss the new HHS grant-funded project. Insurance Commissioner, Al Redmer Jr., stated that the purpose is "... to  do the analytical research work necessary to explore all of our options related to consumer protection and market reforms." Learn more about the project here

Consumer Health First will be tracking the progress on these and multiple issues. We couldn't do this without your support. So, if you missed Giving Tuesday, please donate today. 

Get Engaged and Give!

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For over a decade, Consumer Health First has led a consumer movement to ensure that all Marylanders have access to high-quality, comprehensive and affordable health care.

During that time we have had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Marylanders. Learn more about our successes in 2018.

Today, the movement we have built together, is more important and more challenging than ever. If we are to continue to be successful we need not only your financial support - be it small or large but we also need you!

  • Make a donation here

  • Become a health care consumer advocate. There are many ways to do that and we can help. Contact us for more information.

Do you remember when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed? At the time Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-7) wrote, "The American people waited for over 100 years for this legislation..." Consumer Health First was proud to work for passage of that federal law. Then, we took the lead to ensure that the voices of Marylanders were heard as it was implemented in our state. We made sure that consumers were represented everywhere decisions were made:

  • In Annapolis as laws were drafted and passed;

  • At the countless workgroups as policies were drafted for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and the Maryland Health Connection website was designed; and

  • On committees as our state's unique transformation of the health care delivery system became a reality.

Our guiding mission was to fulfill the promise of the ACA for equitable access to health care so that all Marylanders would have the security of knowing that they can get the care they need -when and where they need it.

With that promise fulfilled we can create healthy and thriving communities for our children to grow up in and a state that is fiscally sound and welcoming for all. Those goals, however, are threatened today as we look at threats of federal "repeal" legislation and the "death by a thousand cuts" approach to the ACA that could mean insurance carriers again rejecting those with a pre-existing condition as mild as acne and as serious as cancer.

That is a future none of us wants to see. Therefore, Consumer Health First remains totally committed to addressing all of the challenges ahead even as we look for opportunities to build a stronger health care system in Maryland.

Please join our movement - the time is now. Donate today.

Open Enrollment Starts Today!


Rate are down, but shop around!

That’s the motto for this year’s open enrollment season. Go to marylandhealthconnection.gov to shop for plans and enroll. There’s a moble app, too, if you want to use your phone. But health insurance is complicated. If you have existing health conditions or established relationships with particular doctors — or if you are just having a hard time figuring out the difference between deductibles and copays and co-insurance — trained people in Maryland who can help you figure it out are just a phone call away. (The number is 855-642-8572.) In-person help is also available from a network of insurance brokers. You can find one close to you by searching here. The health benefit exchange is holding a series of enrollment events around the state. A calendar is here.

Take advantage of the free help. There’s a lot more to consider than the sticker price of a plan, and a navigator can make finding the right one a lot easier.