Strike 1: The American Health Care Act

Health care consumers suffered a big loss last Thursday, when the House of Representatives narrowly passed (217 - 213) the American Health Care Act. The bill was opposed by more than 50 major organizations, including the AARP, the American Medical Association, and the American Hospital Association. To learn more, see a side-by-side comparison of the ACA vs. the AHCA and review our March 29  webinar.

We are deeply concerned about how this bill will impact Marylanders - read our  statement here. We are particularly disappointed in Representative Andy Harris' support for the bill. Contrary to Dr. Harris' claim that the AHCA "will immediately lower premiums," the CBO scoring of the original bill projected a 15%-20% INCREASE in premiums in the first two years, because the bill repeals the individual mandate.

The bill now goes to the Senate and faces an uphill battle, where, much to our dismay, the 13-member group charged with writing the Senate version is missing an important stakeholder group - women.

Strike 2: Insurance Carrier Rates

As if the passage of the deeply flawed AHCA weren't enough, Maryland insurance carriers' 2018 requested rates were posted on Friday, and they produced some sticker shock to put it mildly.

Maryland's largest carrier, CareFirst, requested an average 50.4% increase on its HMO plans and an average 58.8% increase on its PPO plans.

Other carriers also requested large increases, although smaller than CareFirst's. Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co. requested an average 37.36% increase, while Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States asked for an average 18.08% increase.

Evergreen Health, which was absent from the individual marketplace this year because it was waiting for approval to convert to a for-profit insurer, is seeking an average 27.8% increase in its rates for next year. 

Consumer Health First President, Leni Preston, was quoted in articles in the Baltimore Sun and on  WTOP.com:

"The company [CareFirst] set prices too low in the beginning and they should have realized there was going to be a rush of sick people trying to get care," said Leni Preston, president of the Maryland advocacy group Consumer Health First.

"These just seem uncomfortably high and out of sync with what one sees with the rest of the market," Preston said. "I'm almost speechless, really."

These new rate requests indicate that carriers are concerned about the uncertainty of federal action. CareFirst's CEO specifically cited President Trump's signals that he won't enforce the individual mandate as contributing to the rate increases. 

These are only initial rate requests. Historically, the Maryland Insurance Administration has conducted its own internal analysis to determine the efficacy of the requested rates. This year, due to the size of the rate requests, and in an abundance of transparency, the MIA is using an independent firm to review the CareFirst request. As consumer advocates, we applaud the MIA for this action, and will be watching the process closely.

Strike 3: HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary Appointee Doesn't Believe Contraception Works

President Trump struck out with the  the appointment of Teresa Manning, a former lobbyist with the National Right to Life Committee and legislative analyst for the Family Research Council, as deputy assistant secretary for population affairs for the Department of Health and Human Services. Her appointment represents a huge setback for family planning and women's health advocates, as she famously declared in a 2003 NPR interview that birth control didn't work: 

"Of course, contraception doesn't work. Its efficacy is very low, in fact, the incidence of contraception use and the incidence of abortion go up hand in hand."

Planned Parenthood lays out the actual facts here

Happy Monday. It can only get better from here - right?

Upcoming Events
  • Thursday, May 25th - Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee, 1:00 - 3:00 PM, Dept. of Health & Mental Hygiene 201 W. Preston Street Lobby Conference Room L-3 Baltimore, Maryland 21201 
As you can see from the news this week, our work to ensure accessible and affordable health care for all is growing. With legislative threats to the health care safety net, rates that would put insurance out of reach for many Marylanders, and policy makers that threaten access to reproductive health, we need your help. 

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