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.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • House of cards House of cards

    Sixth-graders James Patalinghug, left, and Nina Cutter build a multilevel tower out of index cards Tuesday afternoon at Washington Middle School. The activity was part of a science, technology, engineering, math, known as STEM, lesson designed to teach students about load distribution, friction and gravity.
     

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • CORY ORNDORFF Green Spring man sentenced to 40 years for toddler’s death

    ROMNEY, W.Va. — Hampshire County Circuit Court Judge H. Charles Carl III sentenced 22-year-old Cory A. Orndorff of Green Spring to 40 years in prison for one count of child abuse resulting in the death of an 18-month-old child Wednesday morning.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Glen Bell, a public information officer 900-acre Bear Den wildfire 70 percent contained

    CENTERVILLE, Pa. — A 900-acre wildfire on Wills Mountain in Bedford County was said Wednesday to be “the largest fire in Pennsylvania this spring season,” according to Cecile Stelter, Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry public information officer.
    The fire that was reportedly situated mostly on state game lands began Saturday at about 2 p.m., with initial firefighting efforts handled by the Cumberland Valley Township Volunteer Fire Department at Centerville.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • System to provide firefighters quick access could be required in new Mineral businesses

    KEYSER, W.Va. — The Mineral County Commission agreed to look into the possibility of implementing an ordinance that would require new commercial businesses to install a KNOX-BOX Rapid Entry System.

    April 23, 2014

  • Puff & Stuff owners agree to settlement over claims they sold synthetic drugs

    CUMBERLAND — Charles and Traci Casey, owners of Puff & Stuff stores in Cumberland and LaVale, have agreed to forfeit $173,988.61, to settle claims that they sold synthetic drugs at their stores.

    April 23, 2014

  • Mall maulers

    Chad Trail, Rick Ryan, Mike Lawrence and Rusty Pyles, Cumberland Street Department employees, work on replacing the concrete strips that run between the bricks on the Downtown Cumberland Mall between Centre and Liberty streets.

    April 23, 2014

  • CHARLES  SEVERANCE W.Va. judge orders Severance extradited to Virginia

    WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — A man wanted for questioning in relation to three unsolved slayings in Alexandria, Va., in the past decade should be extradited to Virginia on an unrelated weapons charge, a West Virginia judge ruled Wednesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Keyser man faces charges in Easter incident

    KEYSER, W.Va. — Mineral County Prosecuting Attorney Jay Courrier is faced with deciding whether to charge a Keyser man with disturbing a religious worship.

    April 23, 2014

  • 43-year-old receives prison time for molesting his niece

    CUMBERLAND — A 43-year-old city man was sentenced Wednesday to a 10-year prison term for the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl, according to the Office of the State’s Attorney for Allegany County.

    April 23, 2014

  • ISAAC SPONAUGLE Isaac Sponaugle seeking re-election to West Virginia House of Delegates

    FRANKLIN, W.Va. — Del. Isaac Sponaugle of Franklin announced recently that he will seek re-election to the West Virginia House of Delegates for the 55th District. Sponaugle will be seeking his second term as delegate after having been first elected in 2012.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo