January 19, 2018
A Nick to the Sick Tax
On Wednesday, Gov. Larry Hogan released the fiscal 2019 budget for Maryland. In it, he calls for a $25 million reduction in the hospital Medicaid 'sick tax.' This comes a year after the governor hit pause on the $25 million annual spend-down to which he had committed earlier in his term. Well ahead of the budget release, the hospital field made clear in a letter signed by all acute care hospital CEOs to Gov. Hogan that reducing the tax is the field's top priority. Not only does the reduction help hospitals meet the goals of the All-Payer Model, it also lessens a longstanding burden on patients.
Though the $25 million reduction falls short of the accelerated $35 million spend-down agreed to last year, it demonstrates the power of the hospital field when it speaks with a unified voice, especially considering that the governor had to make up a nearly $300 million gap between revenue and spending this year.
The governor heard hospitals' message and took action.
Other budget highlights include $5.5 million for the hospital capital bond program, an increase of $500,000, and, based on initial analysis, $41 million for Institutions for Mental Disease, including $5 million for physician services. This represents full funding for these invaluable facilities as the state addresses the growing behavioral health crisis.
Now, MHA will focus on protecting the $25 million spend-down and looking for opportunities to increase it as the budget makes its way through the legislature.
Gov. Hogan's opening budget proposal is a signal that the power brokers in Annapolis understand how important hospitals are to Maryland's communities, the state's fiscal health, and the people who rely on them for care. That's a good place to start from as we fight in Annapolis for other legislative actions that will help you meet your mission of care.

At Work in Annapolis
On Wednesday, Governor Hogan introduced his fiscal year 2019 budget proposal, which includes several wins for the hospital field (see message from Your MHA Team above). On Tuesday, MHA testified in opposition to three bills before the Senate Judicial Proceedings committee. These bills attempt to raise the cap on non-economic damages, weaken the state's current standard on awarding punitive damages, and removes the 20 percent rule that could encourage the creation of full-time, professional expert witnesses. With assistance from our allies, the field presented a united front in opposition. MHA also provided a briefing on the Behavioral Health Task Force's Roadmap to an Essential Behavioral Health Treatment System to the House Health & Government Operations Committee.
Each week we will provide you with a dashboard that p rovides an overview of actions MHA has taken in the past week and a look at important hearings and events coming next week.
MHA Member Survey Distributed
MHA has sent out individual emails to hospital CEOs and Executive Committee members to participate in this year's online member survey. Contact Kathy Gotwalt at 410-379-6200 or kgotwalt@mhaonline.org if you have any questions. 
Union Hospital to Join LifeBridge Health
The board of directors of Union Hospital of Cecil County in Elkton has signed a letter of intent to join LifeBridge Health. Union Hospital serves Cecil County and the nearby areas of Delaware and Pennsylvania. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew and Geriatric Center and Hospital and other affiliates. The letter of intent is the first step; details will be finalized over the coming weeks and months. 
CMS Hosting Call on Medicare Beneficiary Identifier
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will host a conference call on the transition to the new Medicare beneficiary identifier from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. January 23 for Medicaid providers and agencies. CMS plans to begin mailing new Medicare cards to beneficiaries in April, which will replace the Social Security-based number on the current cards with a new Medicare beneficiary identifier. 
Summit Helps Hospitals Help Patients
The Maryland Healthcare Education Institute is holding a Spring Healthcare Summit March 9 in Annapolis with keynote speakers from various aspects of the health care industry to help ignite real change within your organization. The goal is to offer a different look at how hospitals can improve care: one that focuses on the well-being of health care workers, so they can do their jobs better. The summit has been designed for staff at all different levels, with the recognition that anyone can be a leader and make a positive change. For details and to register, click here. If you have questions, contact Alison Burrows.
Patient-Centered Care as a Population Health Strategy
Given the struggles hospitals have in providing a safe, patient-friendly environment, one might wonder if our organizations are truly living up to the goal of providing meaningful and valuable care to individual patients.

Reduce Lighting Energy Costs Up to 50 Percent
Lighting accounts for 30 to 60 percent of annual electric costs for many facilities, and many new advances in lighting technology can help your organization conserve energy and save money.

Pollack, Verma Discuss Regulatory Relief, Move to Value-Based Payment and Stark Relief
AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack Wednesday hosted Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma on an AHA Town Hall webcast focused on the current regulatory landscape and efforts the agency is considering to provide regulatory relief to hospitals and health systems.

Tuesday, January 23
MHA Executive Committee meeting

Thursday, January 25
ED Throughput Redesign Summit
Washington Business Journal, By Tina Reed, January 12
The Daily Record, By Tim Curtis, January 12
The Baltimore Sun, By Phil Davis, January 15
ABC 2 News, January 16
The Baltimore Sun, By Erin Cox, January 17
Maryland Reporter, By Jo Martin, January 17
Washington Business Journal, By Tina Reed, January 17