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Media Release: Advocates to Hail Major Health Care Legislation Approved By the Maryland General Assembly

For Immediate Release

April 13, 2021

Contact: Vincent DeMarco (410) 591-9162

Bills will improve health equity and reduce health disparities; make insurance more affordable for young people; make it easier to enroll in insurance.

WHAT: News conference to highlight key legislation to strengthen the Maryland health care system
WHO: Senate President Pro Tem Melony Griffith
House Speaker Pro Tem Sheree Sample-Hughes
House Health and Government Operations Chair Shane Pendergrass
House Ways and Means Chair Anne Kaiser
Senate Finance Vice Chair Brian Feldman
House Health & Government Operations Vice-Chair Joseline Peña-Melnyk
Senator Antonio Hayes
Delegate Lorig Charkhoudian
Michele Eberle, Executive Director, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange
Stan Dorn, Director of the National Center for Coverage and Innovation, Families USA
Vincent DeMarco, President, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative
WHEN: Thursday, April 15, 12 noon.
WHERE: This is an online event. Please register in advance here.

Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative will join legislators, state health leaders and health care experts to highlight legislative measures approved by the General Assembly which build on the state’s successful and nation leading efforts to expand access to affordable and high-quality health care. The bills will make insurance more affordable and easier to access, while also improving health equity by expanding health care services in disadvantaged areas.
“The General Assembly strengthened our health care system, passing major bills that will work together to help more people get the care they need,” said MCHI President Vincent DeMarco. “Beginning with the approval of a funding mechanism for Maryland’s first-in-the-nation Prescription Drug Affordability Board which will make high cost drugs more affordable for Marylanders, the 2021 Session saw meaningful action on health care legislation. The bills address the critical problem of health inequities in our state and will help bring new health resources to underserved areas. They will also make insurance more affordable to young adults and make it easier for people who lose their jobs to apply for affordable health insurance through the Maryland Health Connection. We congratulate the lawmakers who supported these important measures and urge Governor Hogan to sign them into law.”

These successes in the Maryland General Assembly build upon the American Rescue Plan enacted by President Biden and the United States Congress which also provided significant new help for Americans seeking health care coverage.

“Maryland was the only marketplace in the country to implement all three health-insurance-related changes resulting from the American Rescue Plan Act to allow consumers to benefit on April 1,” said Michele Eberle, executive director, Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. “These were the expansion of financial help, additional provisions for people who were on unemployment in 2021, and additional financial help for consumers who already have plans through Maryland Health Connection. We recognize the struggles the pandemic continues to create and the value of health coverage, so our goal was to get Marylanders the help they need as quickly as possible.”

The key pieces of health care legislation passed in the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Session are:
 Health Equity Resource Communities: Senate Bill 172, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Hayes and House Bill 463, sponsored by Delegates Erek Barron and Jazz Lewis, will create Health Equity Resource Communities that will receive new funding to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes by improving access to care.
 Health Insurance Premium Subsidies: Senate Bill 729, sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman, and House Bill 780, sponsored by Del. Ken Kerr, authorizes the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to provide new health insurance coverage subsides for lower-income young adults, a key step in making insurance more affordable.
 Expand Insurance Enrollment for the Unemployed: Senate Bill 893, sponsored by Sen. Jim Rosapepe, and House Bill 1002, sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian, will connect people who file for unemployment insurance with the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange so they can easily access health coverage. This builds on Maryland’s successful first-in-the-nation Easy Enrollment law that connects people to health insurance when they file their state taxes.
 Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Act: Senate Bill 52, sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington, and House Bill 78, sponsored by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, will establish the Maryland Commission on Health Equity which will provide recommendations on how to achieve health equity and develop a comprehensive health equity plan for the state.
 Maternal Medicaid Eligibility: Senate Bill 923, sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington expands Maryland’s Medicaid eligibility to ensure pregnant program recipients are able to receive comprehensive dental and health care services for the duration of the pregnancy and for a full year afterwards, a key step towards achieving improved maternal health outcomes.
 Preserve Telehealth Access Act: Senate Bill 3, sponsored by Sen. Melony Griffith, and House Bill 123 sponsored by Del. Peña-Melnyk, expands the definitions of telehealth and requires reimbursement for these services, ensuring those who can benefit from remote- access to providers are able to utilize telehealth.
 Health Equity Legislation: Sen. Melony Griffith and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk sponsored additional legislation to ensure state agencies are collecting data on race and ethnicity, tracking health disparities, and operating under a health equity framework. These bills include Senate Bill 5 & House Bill 28 to establish standards for implicit bias training and data collection, and Senate Bill 565 & House Bill 309 which would require the Maryland Health Care Commission to publish a report card including racial and ethnic composition data.