Contact: Vincent DeMarco, 410-591-9162
April 9, 2019

General Assembly Gives Final Approval to Two Landmark Health Care Bills

Bills will Reduce the Costs of Prescription Drugs and
Allow for Easy Enrollment in Health Insurance Plans at Tax Time

Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative (MCHI) today offered congratulations to the Maryland General Assembly for passing two pieces of landmark legislation to improve health care in the state. One bill will create the nation’s first Prescription Drug Affordability Board that will have that the authority to establish maximum costs to be paid by state and local governments for certain high-cost medications. The measure will help these governments reduce expenditures on drugs for their employees, freeing up public funds for other needs, such as education.

The second measure, also a first of its kind nationally, will allow Marylanders to begin the process of enrolling in health insurance by checking a box on their annual state income tax returns. The bill is expected to lead to tens of thousands of Marylanders signing up for health insurance, which will expand the pool of people who are insured and bring down premium costs for other enrollees.

“Maryland has taken bold steps to improve health care in the state by passing these two landmark bills,” said MCHI President Vincent DeMarco. “These bills will help bring down soaring drug costs in the state and will give people a convenient way to sign up for health insurance, by simply checking a box on their tax returns. We urge Governor Hogan to stand with Marylanders and sign these two important bills.”

The Prescription Drug Affordability Board legislation was sponsored by Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (Baltimore County) and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (Prince George’s). The Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program bill was sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman (Montgomery) and Del. Peña-Melnyk.

“We are proud to work with our great lead sponsors, Senators Klausmeier and Feldman and Delegate Pena-Melnyk,” DeMarco said. “They had the vision for how to improve our health care system and worked hard throughout the legislative session to pass bills that will generate enormous benefits for years to come to both local and state governments, as well as average Marylanders.”

The easy enrollment insurance program will allow tax filers to indicate on their Maryland tax form that they would like to enroll in a health insurance plan. That single step will let the state’s health care exchange determine eligibility for free or low-cost health insurance, based on information in the tax return. Those who qualify for Medicaid will be enrolled automatically, and the exchange will reach out to people who qualify for private coverage and help them sign up for a plan that works for their family.

Maryland’s Easy Enrollment Health Insurance Program uses the tax system to open an easy pathway to health insurance for Marylanders:

 15,000 uninsured children and 35,000 uninsured adults who qualify for zero-premium health insurance through Medicaid;
 70,000 uninsured Maryland residents who qualify for private insurance fully funded by federal premium tax credits for which those residents are financially eligible; and
 100,000 uninsured Marylanders who are financially eligible for premium tax credits that pay a portion of their private health insurance costs.

“No other state has taken this commonsense approach to use tax return information to help people enroll in health insurance,” DeMarco said. “This approach slashes red tape and eliminates needless paperwork, making it easier for busy families to get the health coverage they need to thrive.” Seven county executive and the mayor of Baltimore City strongly support the Prescription Drug Affordability Board legislation, recognizing that drug costs are eating up an ever-larger share of their annual budgets.

“Maryland has taken a major step forward in bringing down the costs of prescription drug costs,” Demarco said. “This Board will act as a watchdog for the public. It will carefully review drug costs and establish fair and affordable costs for state and local government. It’s a major victory for the people of this state.”

Last modified: April 9, 2019