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Health care advocates propose bill to create health insurance down payment

From WBAL 11

By David Collins

February 13, 2019

 

(Video)

A coalition of health care advocates is backing a bill that creates a health insurance down payment plan.

Those who don’t have insurance would face a $700 fine, but they would have the choice of using it as a down payment for coverage.

Supporters believe creating a state-level mandate will encourage young, healthy people to buy insurance, driving down premium costs for everyone in the individual market.

Here’s how it works: As people file taxes, they’ll be asked if they had health care coverage the previous year.

If the answer is no, they will have a choice: Either pay a $700 penalty, or use it as a down payment to get coverage through the Maryland Health Exchange website. Bill supporters believe it will help 130,000 people obtain health insurance.

“This is one wonderful, creative way to do it,” said Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, D-Prince George’s County.

They also say it’s a good way to screen people who may be eligible for full free coverage through federal programs.

“Many, many folks are going to find out that they are eligible for Medicaid, they are eligible for highly subsidized coverage thanks to federal premium tax credits,” Stan Dorn, of Families USA.

Supporters say the bill is needed because in 2017, Congress ended enforcement of the Affordable Care Act requirement that consumers who can afford health insurance must get it.

In response, Gov. Larry Hogan signed legislation creating a reinsurance pool. It uses some of the windfall of the congressional tax overhaul to subsidize the individual insurance market. But it’s a short-term fix.

“The money runs out for that program in 2021. We need to be putting into place now some longer-term fixes,” said Sen. Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery County.

The legislation is backed by major health organizations, including MedChi and the Hospital Association. If passed, it would go into effect in 2021.