Cumberland Times-News

Local News

February 17, 2013

Lawmakers asked to take final steps to implement Obamacare

ANNAPOLIS — The  Gov. O’Malley administration is asking state legislators to take the final steps to implement the Affordable Care Act in Maryland, and pass another bill to pave the way for expanded health insurance under Obamacare.

The proposed Maryland Health Progress Act of 2013 would dedicate funding to the state health exchange and make other changes required by federal law before the Jan. 1, 2014 deadline.

In addition, this legislation would revise Maryland health policies in accordance with federal guidelines which require all insurance plans to provide certain essential benefits, such as mental health coverage and maternity services. It would also expand Medicaid coverage to include those with incomes at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty line, as dictated by Congress.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown told the House Health and Government Operations Committee that he strongly supported the Health Progress Act, which he described as “the last step of an extraordinary process” to implement the federal health reform law in Maryland.

Maryland among first states to implement act

“Because of your work… (Maryland) will be among the first states to bring the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act to families,” Brown said, adding that the policy would save the state money because the federal government would be picking up 100 percent of the tab for Medicaid in 2014 and 2015.

According to the Department of Legislative Services analysis, state health care spending will decline by $90 million in 2014 and $189 million in 2015 due to a doubling of federal aid during that period.

In subsequent years, the state will continue to reap millions in savings as a result of the Affordable Care Act, despite a gradual tapering off of federal aid, the department wrote in a fiscal note, adding that they projected a $682 million increase in funds to state health providers.

The legislative analysts expect health reform would improve Maryland’s economy, creating 9,000 new jobs. They also posed a potentially controversial argument that health reform will be financially beneficial to Maryland small businesses. Though these financial rewards were “difficult to quantify,” they said the benefits would likely be significant due to the availability of health insurance tax credits and business’ increased access to affordable coverage for employees.

Not a single witness at Wednesday’s House committee hearing contested these findings or expressed opposition to state health reform.

Some proposed amendments to the Maryland Health Progress Act, but most of these proposed changes were minor, with the exception of persistent requests to accelerate and expand implementation of the continuity of care provision of the bill. This allows patients to switch insurance plans without fear that they will immediately be denied care for acute or chronic conditions, since they will have a grace period of 90 days during which their new insurance must pay for preauthorized care.

Right now, this “continuity of care” provision is scheduled to take effect in 2015, but many health reform advocates argue that this policy change should happen as soon as Maryland’s health exchange is created in 2014.

Some have asked state legislators to expand the list of medical conditions that would be covered by that provision to include mental illnesses or other conditions that are currently excluded. Several told delegates that they need to speed up enforcement of the continuity of care provision so that citizens could smoothly transition from one medical plan to another and successfully opt in to the state’s health exchange.

Only two witnesses criticized the Maryland Health Progress Act during their testimony, but even they were supportive of its passage.

Lobbyists from Healthcare Now of Maryland chastised the delegates for not implementing a single payer health care plan, which they argued was the only policy that could guarantee accessible, quality medical care in Maryland. Dr. Deborah Schumann stressed that health care “is a human right,” and her colleague Ken Sandin agreed.

“Programs for the poor are always under-funded and supply second-rate care,” Sandin said. “If you support this legislation [without reservation], then you have more confidence than I do in the state’s willingness to adequately fund health care.”

Text Only
Local News
  • Easter experience Easter experience

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Game on: City interested in baseball study

    After it looked like the objection of a couple of constituents to a study on the feasibility of bringing a minor league baseball team to the area may have torpedoed the thought, county commissioners and some city officials sounded ready to sing a chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on Thursday.

    April 18, 2014

  • DEREK SHEELY Charges against helmet maker stand in case of Frostburg player’s death

    A Montgomery County judge this week declined to dismiss charges against a helmet manufacturer in a case brought by the parents of a Frostburg State University football player who died of head injuries in August 2011 following four straight days of heavy contact drills in practice.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • GAYLE MANCHIN W.Va. BOE president speaks on issues at WVSDB

    West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin responded to issues at the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind during an interview with the Times-News Wednesday morning.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • REGINALD REDMAN Moorefield man jailed on felony drug count

    A Moorefield man was arrested on various charges Thursday, including a felony drug offense for possession of amphetamines, according to the Keyser Police Department.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Blossoming optimism Blossoming optimism

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds Cemetery group’s efforts revive Oak Hill grounds

    After you drive Alexander and Furnace streets then navigate a couple of switchbacks on Cemetery Road, you’d figure there would be no more uphill.

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • Proposed county budget holds most agencies flat

    After taking into account an income tax shortfall, Allegany County Finance Director Jason Bennett said he’ll propose a budget that holds most outside agencies to flat funding and funds the Board of Education at what county officials say are maintenence of effort levels for 2015.

    April 17, 2014

  • RYAN WOLF Wolf named 2014-15 Garrett Teacher of the Year

    Southern Garrett High School teacher Ryan Wolf has been named the 2014-15 Garrett County Teacher of the Year.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock Rep. Delaney discusses congressional gridlock

    While giving a civics lesson at Frostburg State University on Thursday, U.S. Rep. John Delaney, congressman from Maryland’s sixth district, told students that the polarization in Congress is due primarily to redistricting and a poorly designed Congressional schedule.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read
News related video