Reinsurance Program Waiver Approved!

Yesterday,  Governor Hogan announced that CMS has approved Maryland's 1332 State Innovation Waiver  for a reinsurance program that he described as "the largest in the United States." This is an important step towards lowering insurance premiums in the individual market.  We congratulate all those who contributed to what the Governor described as a "common sense and bipartisan" effort. [Click the links to find the statement of Michele Eberle, MHBE Executive Director and coverage in the Baltimore Sun and Baltimore Business Journal.]

What are the next steps?
  •  Insurance carriers will resubmit their new rates with a hearing at the Maryland Insurance Administration scheduled for Monday, September 17.  CHF will be testifying at the hearing and expect to reiterate the points we first made in our July letter to Commissioner Redmer.
  •  Within the week the MHBE Board will address the issue of any duplicate payments CareFirst may receive under the Federal risk adjustment program and Maryland's reinsurance program. (Find the July 16 presentation to the Board here.) The Board's decision will impact the new proposed rates. CHF provided its comments on this and related issues at a hearing on July 26.
  • Regulations for the reinsurance program must be finalized before the end of the year. MHBE staff is to be commended for the very open process they carried out to get stakeholder input. In addition, to the comments cited above, CHF provided further input to the staff at the last of its four hearings.
As  Delegate Pena-Melnyk said in the Baltimore Sun, this reinsurance program will "buy us time" to stabilize the individual market in the short term. We must now look at longer-term solutions and CHF will continue to be engaged in this process to assure Marylanders that health insurance premiums are equitable and affordable.
Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission

The HICPC Commission will next meet on  Tuesday, September 18 at 2:00 p.m. in the Health and Government Operations Committee room . We anticipate that the reinsurance program will be on the agenda.

In addition, the Commission's Co-Chair, Delegate Pena-Melnyk, noted in yesterday's Daily Record that "we have a lot of different options because we want a permanent solution." As the article goes on to state, one of those is the Medicaid Buy-In Plan for which CHF has been advocating a study be conducted. One of six studies in all, which were identified and called for in the Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2108. 

The Commonwealth Fund recently published an issue brief that relates both to the work of the HICPC and the grant described below - "Expanding Enrollment Without the Individual Mandate: Options to bring more people into the individual markets." "RAND's COMPARE microsimulation model is used to analyze six policies that would expand access to tax credits, increase their generosity, and fund a reinsurance program." Find the full report here.
Maryland Insurance Administration

There are three items to bring to your attention, that fall under the activities of the MIA.
  • Health Care Access Act of 2018 - Assessment Implementation: The act called for an assessment on carriers for 2019 of which 2.5% is to be used to fund "individual health insurance market stabilization." These funds would go the the reinsurance program. Read the MIA bulletin here.
  • State Flexibility Grants: On Monday the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that 30 states and the District of Columbia would receive $8.6 million to help stabilize their individual markets. Read the press release.  Maryland received $280,000 directed to the MIA to study "Guaranteed Availability of Coverage, Guaranteed Renewability of Coverage, and the Essential Health Benefits (EHB)." (Read the fact sheet.) We will provide more information on the MIA's plans for this grant in the future. 
  • Association Health Plans: This week the MIA released information on the intersection of state and federal laws regarding the sale of AHPs in Maryland based, in part, on the Maryland Health Care Access Act of 2018. Find the bulletin here.
Maryland Department of Health Appointments

On August 9, MDH Secretary, Robert Neall,  announced two appointments:
  • Dr. Howard Haft has been named Executive Director of the new Maryland Primary Care Program and 
  • Fran Phillips will be the Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services.
We look forward to working with both of them.
An Issue of Concern

We continue to track issues at the Federal level that could have negative consequences for the health and well-being of Marylanders. The most recent example is an anticipated rule change that would impact who could either come into, or stay in, the country based upon their potential future use or past use of a public benefit such as Medicaid. 
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) has provided very  useful resources to better understand the issues involved and they have done a fact sheet that pertains specifically to  pregnant women and children.  In reality, though, the Administration is not waiting for the rule to be finalized as is evident in the heart-breaking story of Michelle Nicoll Gutierrez.  Her parents live in Maryland, but she can no longer bring her children from Mexico to visit them.  
  • Take action if you feel strongly about this issue. Sign on to the CBPP Coalition letter.

Affordability and Quality: Can We Have Both? 

Friday, September 28 
8:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
This year's symposium offers an exciting opportunity to discuss how Maryland is tackling two important issues - health care affordability and quality.  John Colmers, Vice President for Health Care Transformation and Strategic Planning at Johns Hopkins Medicine, will kick things off with his perspective on where Maryland has been and where it is going. He will be followed by a panel of Maryland's leading experts to discuss specific state initiatives. Attendees will then share their expertise and ideas on the challenges in achieving both affordability and quality.  

Find more information here and, remember, registration is required 
  • September 7 = Deadline for early bird registration ($20.00) 
  • September 8 - 27 = Deadline for pre-registration ($30.00)
  • September 28 = On-site registration ($40.00)

Consumer Health First makes a difference every day in the lives of Marylanders across the state and we simply couldn't do this without the support of our funders.

We are enormously grateful to Open Society Institute - Baltimore who has, once again, shown their support for our work with a generous grant. Their support, and that of our other funders, past and present, including Raising Women's Voices and Healthcare Initiative Foundation is absolutely critical. 

Please join them and donate today! We promise that every donation - large or small - will be used to drive our mission of health equity through access to high-quality, comprehensive and affordable health care for all Marylanders.

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