Survey Says...

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Our Ask: This is not a legislative request. Rather, we are asking for your help with two subjects being discussed with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (MHBE) Affordability and State Benchmark Plan Workgroups. 

What and Why: These workgroups - Affordability and State Benchmark Plan (SBP) - will develop recommendations for the Board of Trustees on these two issues. CHF is participating on both workgroups, with President, Beth Sammis serving as Affordability Co-Chair, and Board Member, Leni Preston as SBP Chair.

We Need You: Specifically, we need YOUR expertise as we develop those recommendations. The last meeting of the workgroups will be held in early May and before then we will be meeting to provide recommendations on:

  • How to increase affordability of Qualified Health Plans for consumers both inside and outside the Exchange.

  • Whether the current State Benchmark Plan meets consumers' needs, and if Maryland should leverage federal regulations that allow for greater state flexibility on the design of the SBP and what the timing might be.

For complete information on all workgroups go here.

Here's How To Help:  All we ask is that you take just 10 minutes (really!) to fill out a short survey.  The deadline is Tuesday, March 26, but go ahead - do it now, and thanks for your input!


The President's Budget Proposal: Bad for the Health of America

On Monday, President Trump sent to Congress his  "A Budget for a Better America" with the subtitle "Promises Kept. Taxpayers First." Not only does it not adhere to his promise that no changes would be made to Medicaid or Medicare, but it clearly doesn't align with our concept of health care for all. In fact, the proposals would reverse the progress we have made in spite of the Administration's "death by a thousand cuts" approach.

Here are the highlights:

  • $845 billion dollars cut from Medicare over the next 10 years just as baby boomers start to flood the program.

  • $245 billion cut from Medicaid over the next 10 years to "shift more power to the states."

  • A nationwide work requirement for Medicaid.

  • The elimination of "zero premium" ACA plans.

  • 12% decrease in funding to the NIH, amounting to about $4.5 billion.

  • 10% decrease in funding to the CDC, despite a year in which outbreaks of measles, whooping cough, flu, and other diseases normally protected by vaccines, are on the rise.

Add to this the cuts made to the EPA and its environmental health programs, as well as global health programs, humanitarian aid, and more. Taken together, this becomes an all out assault on the health and well being not only of Americans, but our friends around the world. 

See where your elected officials stand:

  • Congressman Andy Harris of the 1st District has not issued a statement, however, here is what others in Maryland's Congressional Delegation are saying: 

See what the media and others are saying: 

Maryland Total Cost of Care Model - Transforming Health and Health Care

In this week’s issue of the JAMA Network, Maryland’s Total Cost of Care Model is described and highlighted as a positive and successful demonstration of how a CMS Innovation Center partnership with a state can accelerate transformation across payers and generate significant savings. Maryland has made a commitment by taking total-cost-of-care accountability for all Maryland Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries. The Maryland total-cost-of-care model will test new ways to reduce costs and improve quality across the health care continuum with an emphasis on population health. None of this is possible without a strong federal-state partnership. Together, CMS and the state are implementing a model that aligns financial incentives across an increasing number of Maryland clinicians, facilities, and suppliers and offers them new tools to help achieve better health and lower costs for the populations they serve.

Consumer Health First looks forward to continuing to promote the consumer perspective in the model on HSCRC's work groups.

Supreme Court Refuses to Take up Maryland Law on Pharmaceutical Price Gouging

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of the United States let stand a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals . The law was the first of its kind in the nation, although other states have considered similar measures.

The law applied to generic or off-patent drugs manufactured by at least three other firms. It would prevent those companies from imposing a significant price increase without justifying it to the attorney general, who could then ask a judge to order that the price increase not take effect. Violating the law carried a $10,000 fine.

The appeals court held the measure violated the U.S. Constitution by trying to regulate trade outside of Maryland.

This is a blow to consumers and efforts to achieve drug pricing transparency.

Consumer Health First is supporting current legislation efforts to create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, which would protect State residents and certain stakeholders within the health care system from the high costs of prescription drug products, by requiring certain conflicts of interest to be considered when appointing Board members, and requiring the Board to identify certain prescription drug products with certain costs. It would also establish a Prescription Drug Affordability Stakeholder Council.

Get the Latest Data on Medicaid Benefit Coverage for Adults in Each State, including Behavioral Health Services

Federal Medicaid rules grant states flexibility to design their own benefit packages beyond meeting core federal requirements. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently surveyed Medicaid directors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to identify those benefits covered for categorically needy traditional adult beneficiaries in their fee-for-service programs. Their updated Medicaid Benefits Database includes data about the various benefits covered in states, notable limits on those benefits, and cost sharing requirements as of July 1, 2018. Data from previous years (generally 2012 and earlier) is also accessible. Also available for the first time is another database that includes data on Medicaid coverage of a range of behavioral health services, by state, at KFF’s Medicaid Behavioral Health Services Database.

The databases should be useful for Medicaid officials, researchers, patient advocates and journalists trying to understand the variation across states in Medicaid benefits such as dental coverage, private duty nursing services and treatment for opioid addiction.

Medicaid Supports Maryland - Exciting New Resource!

The Medicaid Supports Maryland campaign we launched a year ago to make sure that elected officials and the public fully understand the broad reach and positive impact of this vital health care program.   

Did you know that: 

  • 1,046,579 individuals are enrolled in Medicaid at the end of 2018 - that's more than one in five Maryland residents.

    • Enrollees include individuals from all walks of life including four year old Kayleigh. Her mother wrote, "Medicaid gives us hope for the future and for Kayleigh to reach her maximum potential."  

  • $12.4 billion is the total for fund claims. As reported by Medicaid Program Director, Dennis Schrader, $7.7 billion are federal funds and $4.7 billion are state allocations.

Our 2017 poll, showed strong support for the program, and why we need to build on that support by providing the facts about Medicaid. That is why we developed the Medicaid 101 Briefing.

These are being provided to each member of the Legislative Committees that have oversight of the program, as well as new legislators, so that they are fully informed on the Medicaid program in Maryland. We are grateful to The Hatcher Group for helping to bring this project to fruition and for the financial support of the Maryland Managed Care Organization Association, Kaiser Permanente, Healthcare Initiative Foundation, and NARAL-Pro Choice.   

We are also grateful to Maryland's leaders for their commitment to the Medicaid program, but we must be alert for any threats to the program.  Last week, multiple news sources, including Axios, reported on the Trump Administration's efforts to bypass Congress and encourage states, through the 1115 waiver process, to implement block grants. This, despite the fact that Republicans failed to win the votes to do this with their previous legislative efforts to "repeal and replace" the ACA. The impact of that legislation, specific to Medicaid block grants, would have been the loss of insurance for millions of Americans, as reported by the Congressional Budget Office, in September 2017.  

Please, join Consumer Health First in supporting the Maryland Medicaid Program.

  • Donate to Consumer Health First and help us continue to ensure that all Marylanders have access to high quality, comprehensive and affordable health care.