July 19, 2020
Looking to 2021 Session, COVID Looms Large
Last week marked four months since Maryland’s first case of community transmission of COVID-19. In that time, our professional and personal lives have been upended by the novel coronavirus. That now looms over our 2021 legislative session.

The pandemic exposed vulnerabilities in our state health infrastructure and supply chains. It cast much needed light on a long-time pattern of racial and health disparities in our communities. And it devastated the state budget more quickly than did the Great Recession.

The Board of Public Works recently voted to slash $413 million from the state’s FY 2021 budget. About half, including a proposed $35 million boost to the Medicaid deficit assessment and cuts to provider payments, requires legislative approval. MHA opposed cuts that harm our field or the most vulnerable Marylanders.

Yet, even optimistic forecasts include a 12% cut to planned spending over the next two years.

This year, MHA secured budgetary victories—doubling the size of the physician Loan Assistance Repayment Program and lowering the Medicaid deficit assessment. In this economic downturn, we will turn our advocacy to the budget committees to secure resources the health care field needs. And of course, we will continue to champion other hospital priorities such as liability reform.

Our message is clear—a strong health care system is essential to protect the health of Marylanders and to respond to the next emergency.

Maryland’s legislative session is just 90 days long, but MHA advocates year-round on your behalf. With just six months till the General Assembly reconvenes, we are laying the groundwork for meaningful wins in a very challenging session.
Bob Atlas
President & CEO
Provider Relief Fund Update
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published Friday that it will begin distributing another $10 billion from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) for hospitals in “hotspot” areas this week . HHS used COVID-19 positive-inpatient admission data from Jan. 1 - June 10 to determine hospitals’ eligibility and share of the $10 billion release. Payments of $50,000 per eligible admission will go to more than 1,000 hospitals that had any of the following:

  • More than 161 COVID-19 admissions between Jan. 1 and June 10
  • An average of one COVID-19 admission per day
  • Disproportionate intensity of COVID admissions (exceeding the average ratio of COVID admissions/bed)

As expected, the payments are substantially less per eligible admission than payments under the first round, because many more hospitals met hotspot criteria. The previous round sent $76,975 per eligible admission to 395 hospitals having 100 or more COVID-19 admissions between Jan. 1 and April 10. HHS notes that previous payments were taken into account when determining each hospital’s payment for the second round. The department also acknowledged that some areas of the country are currently seeing new COVID-19 surges and said it will “provide relief where possible.” This round brings total payouts for provider relief to $116 billion, leaving approximately $59 billion available for payment for care of the uninsured , relief for dentists, and subsequent funding tranches.
Guidance for Pregnant Patients with COVID-19
MDMOM Program is hosting its third webinar in a series on caring for pregnant and postpartum women in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Professional Organization Guidance for Pregnant Patients with COVID-19 is scheduled for July 29 at noon. Visit the  MDMOM Program website  for more information about the webinar series.
Clinical Learnings on COVID-19 Webinar Series
The Northeast Hospital Associations and the Jefferson College of Population Health will hold weekly webinars July 21 - Sept. 22 focused on approaches to and solutions for the clinical dilemmas that arose during COVID-19 surge. The sessions, led by physicians from states that first experienced COVID-19, are limited to the first 500 attendees. Recordings of the webinars will be made available to all hospitals on the Jefferson Digital Commons .
MHCC Releases Price Comparison for Hospital Costs
The Maryland Health Care Commission (MHCC) announced its updated consumer price comparison tool: Wear the Cost on Thursday through a media release to promote the website. The data in this comparison is problematic. MHA let MHCC know hospitals in our state are committed to transparency, but we believe this particular information is outdated and confusing. MHA prepared talking points about the price comparison, which were shared with your public relations and government affairs leads ahead of the release. For additional questions, contact Nicole Stallings .
MHA-BOP Telehealth Proposed Regulation Comments
MHA submitted comments to the Maryland Board of Physicians on behalf of the hospital field on the proposed telehealth regulations COMAR MHA was successful in passing legislation in the 2020 legislative session to require statutory changes to current law. The proposed regulations would lift restrictions that limit telehealth practitioners’ ability to use certain technologies to deliver care by telehealth. New state law allows for both synchronous and asynchronous technologies to be used within clinical standards and appropriate use. MHA requested amendments and additional clarification to the draft regulations based member feedback. MHA will update the field as the regulations are promulgated.
Rural Primary Care Provider Survey
The National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, the membership association for the 50 state offices of rural health, is seeking input from rural primary care providers across the country by participating in the  Rural Primary Care Provider Survey 2020 .

Survey responses are due July 31.
Maryland Insurance Administration Rate Review Hearing
The Maryland Insurance Administration (MIA) held its annual premium rate review hearing last Wednesday. At the hearing, MIA officials presented on insurers’ proposed 2021 premium rates . For the individual market, the average request is a 4.8% decrease; for the small group market, it is a 5.3% increase. MIA shared that in addition to its traditional review of the rates, the agency is doing an in-depth analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on insurer claims and claims cost.

Rates will be finalized by mid-September. MHA testified at the hearing, highlighting the variation in hospital trends across the different insurer rate filings, and urging MIA to address underlying affordability by collecting and measuring insurer success on care management programs for enrollees. MHA also emphasized the need to permanently expand telehealth coverage and reimbursement parity. Finally, MHA requested uniform guidance from the MIA related to coverage and reimbursement COVID-19 testing in order to further the goals of the state around broad testing of asymptomatic individuals. For more information, contact Maansi Raswant .
Suicide Prevention Summit
The Mental Health Academy (MHA) and the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) will host an online suicide prevention conference , the 2020 Suicide Prevention Summit, Aug. 29-30. The summit is free to attend and will include up-to-date, advanced knowledge and treatment options for suicide prevention. Registration is open
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