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Legislative Session Wrap-up

The 2016 Maryland General Assembly Session has now come to a close. We can now reflect on a busy few months of movement on health care progress and legislation…

Background

The 2016 session was thankfully much different than last year when we spent a majority of our time in Annapolis on the defensive. We were battling budget cuts to benefits for pregnant women and maintaining robust provider reimbursement rates in the Medicaid program. Because of tremendous leadership from allies in the General Assembly, this year’s budget didn’t have these cuts. Instead, we were able to spend this entire session building on gains to improve healthcare for Marylanders.

We also entered the 2016 Session on the tail-end of the open enrollment period for health care in the Maryland Health Connection. Fortunately, Maryland’s uninsured rate dropped from 15 percent to 5 percent–representing hundreds of thousands of newly insured consumers. There were some unfortunate challenges people enrolled in the Medicaid program experienced when renewing their coverage in the new system, but with the help of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Maryland Health Connection and some of the state’s Managed Care Organizations, we successfully inserted a $100,000 appropriation for an independent review of the enrollment process to increase efficiency across state agencies and maximize enrollment in public health programs. This study will also help ensure that the challenges enrollees experienced this time around will not resurface.

Finally, to support this effort and help people get assistance with enrollment, we re-launched our successful radio ad with Orioles’ superstar Adam Jones.

So what happened with health policy this session?

Special thanks to our volunteers, board and staff members who also weighed in on more than 50 pieces of legislation this session! We were successful in helping pass an overdue dental care bill for former Maryland foster care youth, and streamlining the participation process and modifications in telemedicine through Medicaid providers. We continued the fight from previous years on a health education bill about consumer choices, and helped defeat bad legislation that would have repealed or reduced prices on alcohol and tobacco, reversing incredible public health progress we had made in the past. This progress is highlighted by a study just released this week by Professor David Jernigan of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health showing that our 2011 alcohol sales tax increase led to substantially less alcohol consumption in our state than there otherwise would have been. See links to study  and media release.

We also worked on a much needed first step at addressing racial health equity, network access standards and provider network directories. This process included a large variety of stakeholders, extensive workgroup meetings (that really started in Exchange Advisory groups over 9 months ago), and a compromise bill that merged a few pieces of legislation. With diligence, this foundation will lead to greater transparency, oversight, and a framework for adequate networks so Marylanders with insurance coverage can expect to conveniently access affordable care. We look forward to continuing the work to make the intent of the legislation a reality.

What’s ahead?

As the gavel fell on Sine Die in Annapolis we are proud of our collective hard work and success, and now shift focus on expanding the Maryland Faith Community Health Network. Thank you for your engagement and support. We look forward to continuing the conversation about health system transformation and the evolving landscape that is health care in Maryland!