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Health Equity Resource Communities

All Marylanders deserve access to high-quality, affordable health care. However, health inequities based on race, ethnicity, disability, and place of residence persist throughout the state, as shown in maternal and infant mortality rates and other measures. The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed these health inequities and highlighted the need to address them and otherwise improve health outcomes in our state. In underserved areas of the state, people with chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and substance and mental health disorders have worse health outcomes and are less able to get the care and treatment they need.

Health Equity Resource Communities

Our coalition successfully advocated for the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act (SB 172/HB463) which allocates $59M of state funding  to help reduce health inequities. We thank lead Sponsors Sen. Antonio Hayes, Del. Erek L. Barron, and Del. Jazz Lewis. The law immediately makes $14M available for Pathways to Health Equity Grants and later the establishment of Health Equity Resource Communities, both administered by the Community Health Resources Commission and assisted by an Advisory Committee. Communities will be parts of the state with poor health outcomes that contribute to health inequities. Once designated as a Health Equity Resource Community, the community will gain special access to technical assistance, grants, and health care provider loan repayment assistance. They will be modeled after the successful 2012-2016 Health Enterprise Zones Program which successfully increased access to health resources, improved residents’ health, reduced hospital admissions, and created cost savings. Supporting health will help reduce preventable hospital admissions, which will result in lower overall health care costs, including lower insurance premiums for everyone.

Please help us spread the word about this new program! Find more information at the Community Health Resources Commission: https://health.maryland.gov/mchrc/Pages/herc.aspx 

Establish Permanent Funding

Our original proposal included a penny per dollar increase in the state’s alcohol tax to establish permanent dedicated funding for these programs. Instead, the bill that passed allocated COVID relief funding and surplus from the state’s reinsurance fund to support the program for five years.

It is vital that the program continue to receive funding after 2025, which could be accomplished if Maryland continues to have a reinsurance fund surplus that it dedicates to the program. Alternatively, Maryland could increase the state alcohol beverage sales tax by a penny per dollar to raise dedicated permanent funding for the program. In 2011 our Coalition successfully advocated for the 2011 Maryland alcohol tax increase, which in addition to funding the Health Enterprise Zones Program also led to significant reductions in underage drinking, binge drinking, driving under the influence, and sexually transmitted infections. Raising the state’s alcohol beverage sales tax would generate necessary funds to provide continuous funding to the Health Equity Resource Communities after 2025 and also create more community-based prevention, treatment, and recovery support programs to address substance use and mental health disorders. It would also reduce drinking, including by underage Marylanders and heavy drinkers, which in turn would save lives and reduce health care costs.

Important Reading