March 10, 2017
Why We Fight
As she testified, Kathy West never let go of her son's hand.
Blake was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 1999, when he was 3 months old. Now a teenager, he sat in his wheelchair beside his mother as she spoke about the need for families whose children have suffered grievous injuries during birth to get the care they deserve - quickly and without hassle.
"I'm not sure I can quite describe to you how confused and helpless Blake's father and I felt at that time," West told legislators in Annapolis Monday. "Our only concern was getting the care that Blake needed to live a quality life. And I had no idea how that was going to happen."
West told the joint hearing of the House Health & Government Operations and Judiciary committees about how her obstetrician helped connect her with the Florida Birth Related Neurological Compensation Association. Within four months, her family began getting the compensation they needed - not just for medical care, but also for equipment that insurance does not cover or deem a medical necessity, like bath chairs and communication devices. In fact, the Florida program recently purchased an Eagle Eye device that picks up the movements around Blake's eyes so that he can activate a laptop computer by himself.
As I sat behind West, I was struck by the dedication of this woman who traveled 600 miles to Annapolis from her home in Indiana to share her very personal story. She made the trip because she understands that other families are just like hers, and they need help just as she did.
"I am here on behalf of all families and children who received neurological birth injury diagnoses," she said. "I cannot imagine having to endure the ordeal and expenses of a lawsuit at that vulnerable time - especially for a naturally occurring injury - much less having to wait years until a settlement is reached. As a mom who has a son with cerebral palsy, I ask that you support children and families in your state by passing the Maryland No-Fault Birth Injury Fund."
That's what the proposal for the Maryland No-Fault Birth Injury Fund is all about: getting families the care they need and deserve. And it's why we're fighting hard to gain support for this legislation.
Thanks to compelling testimony from West and others, the joint committee hearing in the House went well. But the bill still faces strong opposition from trial lawyers. And while it is not likely that the legislation will pass this year, each time Maryland's lawmakers hear from people like Kathy West, they gain an appreciation for what a fund can do for families who are suffering. Every year, we are building momentum for a compassionate program that helps those in need.
Kathy West won't stop. Her son Blake won't stop. And we won't stop.
This is what our work in Annapolis is all about - advocating for you, your patients and your communities - so that lawmakers understand the huge difference they can make in the lives of the Marylanders we all serve.

Left to right: Kathy West, her son Blake West, and Kenney Shipley, Executive Director, The Florida Birth-Related Neurological Injury Compensation Association

Spotlighting Some of the 100+ Bills MHA is Tracking This Session

More than 40 bills addressing Maryland's opioid crisis have been introduced during the 2017 session. Both the House and Senate plan to convene work groups to discuss proposed legislation, and several of the bills are expected to pass. Most notable are a bill introduced by Governor Hogan and another by Democratic leaders.   
  • HB 1432- The Prescriber Limits Act of 2017, introduced by the governor, restricts providers to prescribing no more than a seven-day supply of a Schedule II or III controlled dangerous substance upon the initial consultation with a patient. MHA is discussing this bill with stakeholders and has not yet taken a public position. 
  • SB 967/HB 1329- The Hope & Treatment Act of 2017, introduced by House Health and Government Operations Committee Chair Shane Pendergrass, is a comprehensive, collaborative approach to the opioid crisis. Among other provisions, the bill requires that hospitals have a treatment protocol in place for discharging patients who have been treated for an opioid overdose. MHA supports this bill with one amendment: Instead of submitting the services provided under the hospital's protocol to the Health Services Cost Review Commission as part of a hospital's annual community benefits report, the amendment would require hospitals to submit this information to MHA. The information would be compiled into a report and shared with the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, the House Health & Government Operations Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Provider Alignment
SB 369/HB 403- Maryland Patient Referral Law - Compensation Arrangements Under Federally Approved Programs and Models
  • This bill modernizes Maryland's patient self-referral law to allow hospitals and physicians to form collaborative partnerships. Stakeholders came to consensus on the bill during a summer work group led by MHA. Last week, the Senate bill, SB 369, passed the Senate unanimously; the House bill, HB 403, passed the House unanimously today. MHA testified in support of both bills and will continue to monitor progress through the legislative process. 
Annapolis at a Glance
With only a month left of the 2017 session, the focus of the General Assembly is on the fate of the budget. MHA received hopeful news this week when the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources voted to reduce the Medicaid tax by $5 million in fiscal year 2018, rather than pausing the annual spend-down entirely. In addition, they officially rejected the administration's proposal to take $10 million from the uncompensated care fund. The full Appropriations Committee will meet this afternoon to report final decisions on the budget and the Senate Budget & Taxation Committee will meet next week to report budget decisions. Links to bills and our position papers are included in this week's Advocacy Dashboard.
HSCRC Continues Palliative Care Exclusion in MHAC Program
The Health Services Cost Review Commission this week voted to approve staff's final recommendations on the Maryland Hospital Acquired Conditions (MHAC) policy for fiscal year 2019, agreeing to continue the palliative care exclusion from the MHAC program over the objections of CareFirst and commissioners Jack Keane and Joe Antos. Additional draft recommendations were made on updates to relative value unit scales for imaging services, and regarding the submission of Medicare wage index data from the Medicare cost report. Read more in this month's Newsbreak.
AHA Offers Repeal and Replace Resources 
The American Hospital Association (AHA) has created a special webpage with resources (members-only - you will need to log on to your AHA account) related to efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. It includes a summary of the proposed American Health Care Act, AHA's letter to the House on the bill, a guide to the reconciliation process and a podcast on the latest state of play in Washington, in addition to other information. Please check back frequently for new podcasts and additional resources. Earlier this week, AHA issued this Special Bulletin, Summary of House Package to Repeal and Replace Parts of the ACA
MHA Sponsors Health IT Security Roundtable
MHA, along with the Maryland Health Care Commission, the Health Services Cost Review Commission, and the Maryland Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is sponsoring a Health IT Security User Education Roundtable: A Best Practices Symposium on March 27 from 8-10 a.m. CIO/CISO, Compliance, Operations, Provider and Nursing leaders are invited to attend the event at the MHA offices in Elkridge. Please register here.
CEOs Invited to AHA Cybersecurity Session
Maryland's hospital CEOs are invited to an American Hospital Association (AHA) cybersecurity leadership session April 6in Washington, D.C. An AHA-members-only link to the registration page for the session can be found on AHA's special cybersecurity webpage at Leadership Matters: Managing Cybersecurity Risk in Health Care will be held at theLoews Madison Hotel at 1177 Fifteenth Street NW. This one-day, 7 a.m. - 4 p.m. event will be preceded by a networking reception the evening before. The session is tailored specifically for hospital or health system presidents/CEOs in response to requests from AHA members for non-technical resources to help them understand and respond to increasing cybersecurity threats. While it is required that the president/CEO of the hospital or health system attend, he or she may be accompanied by the organization's designated cybersecurity lead. The focus of the session will be best-practice leadership for addressing an organization's risk and minimizing the impacts of likely cyber-events. Registration is free; participants will cover their travel and lodging expenses (the rate at the Loews Madison Hotel is $339 per night). Registrations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and is capped at 20 organizations. The program will feature experts from BDO Consulting USA, including John Riggi, former FBI special agent and Section Chief for Cyber Division Outreach, and AHA staff experts on cybersecurity policy. It also will allow attendees to meet with local law-enforcement officials who are focused on cyber-attack response. For more information, contact AHA's Assistant General Counsel Lawrence Hughes at, or 202-626-2346.
Caring for the Consumer
Ryan Donohue's research on "Health Care Consumerism" shows that most health care consumers are confused about hospitals and health care. (Donohue is currently the corporate director of program development with National Research Corporation, the largest surveyor of health care consumers in the US.)

Accelerate Collections by Capturing Missing Charges and Lost Revenue
Health care providers are facing common challenges - transitioning to ICD-10, managing the risk of new reimbursement models, improving net revenue, reducing days in accounts receivable, increasing efficiency, and managing complex contracts.

CMS Updates Web Resource on Provider Transition to Medicare Beneficiary Identifier
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has updated its webpage to help health care providers prepare for the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier, which will replace the Health Insurance Claim Number on transactions such as billing, eligibility status and claim status by April 2019. 

Tuesday, March 14
MHA Executive Committee meeting

Friday, March 17
13th Annual Maryland Patient Safety Conference
The Daily Record, By Tim Curtis, March 5
Carroll County Times, By Jon Kelvey, March 5
Eye on Annapolis, By Staff March 5
The Frederick News-Post, By Nancy Lavin, March 7
The Baltimore Sun, By Meredith Cohn, March 7
Baltimore Business Journal, By Morgan Eichensehr, March 7
The Daily Record, By Tim Curtis, March 8
Capital Gazette, By Phil Davis, March 8