ANNAPOLIS, MD – With support from Consumer Health First and others, Senator Brian Feldman (Montgomery) and Delegate Ariana Kelly (Montgomery) are sponsoring legislation to help expand access to affordable health insurance and add new insurance options statewide.
The legislation focuses on a Medicaid Buy-In Program, a newly emerging strategy to expand insurance options. Under such a program, Marylanders could “buy in” to Medicaid by paying an affordable premium. This program would help the many Marylanders who are still struggling to find affordable health insurance.
The legislation would establish a panel of experts, including consumers, to advise the governor and Maryland General Assembly on next steps in considering a Medicaid Buy-In Program, or other options for affordable insurance.
“The state has made progress in insuring more people, but we have heard from individuals who simply cannot afford the premiums,” said Kathy Ruben, executive director of Consumer Health First. “For those who live in rural areas it is not only the cost, but also the lack of choice in health plans that is particularly difficult. As a state, we have an obligation to address their needs, and we believe this legislation is a reasonable and responsible approach to a real issue facing thousands of Marylanders.”
Maryland has made important advances in reducing the number of uninsured, but some people still struggle to find affordable health plan options. This is particularly true for those Marylanders who do not qualify for federal tax credits that help others purchase plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. The problem of finding affordable options is particularly challenging for Marylanders who live in one of the 13 counties that have only one health insurer selling plans on the Exchange.
The bill is designed to help people like a 62-year-old Annapolis small business owner, who informed state regulators last year that she cannot afford the higher premiums in the individual market. “The proposed increase is as high as 57 percent,” she wrote to state regulators. “I simply will not do it. I will hope that I do not have a catastrophic injury or illness before I am eligible for Medicare in three years. I cannot even begin to tell you how much anxiety and stress this situation is causing me
During the most recent open enrollment period, the number of people enrolling in private insurance plans dropped by 2.6 percent – from 157,637 the previous year to 153,571. A factor in the drop-off was the higher premiums that fall hardest on the population not eligible for subsidies.
“We need to act now to create more affordable options for people who are paying the full cost of their insurance,” said Del. Ariana Kelly (Montgomery), the lead House sponsor. “We must consider all approaches to accomplish that, and allowing people to buy in to Medicaid must be on the table.”
“The state’s Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission has spent the past year looking at health insurance options for Marylanders. This legislation is an important step towards addressing an urgent need for too many Marylanders who need insurance but simply cannot afford it,” said Sen. Brian Feldman (Montgomery), the lead Senate sponsor.
Consumer Health First is a statewide, non-partisan, grassroots alliance of 100 organizations and more than 1,800 individuals that seeks solutions and advances reforms that promote health equity through access to comprehensive, affordable, high quality health care for all Marylanders. For more information,