With Washington still considering major cuts to the Medicaid health insurance program, consumers in Maryland have won additional protections through legislation that will require a broad group of experts and community members to help state officials craft any changes to Medicaid here.
A provision added to the state budget at the request of Consumer Health First requires state officials to partner with a range of stakeholders on changes to Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program. The budget requirement means consumer advocates, healthcare providers and other experts will have a role in changing Maryland’s Medicaid program in response to policy or budget changes passed by Congress.
Despite the recent failure by Congress to pass the American Health Care Act, Consumer Health First remains concerned about potential federal action on Medicaid. “We fully expect Congress and the Trump administration to continue pushing for funding cuts and policy changes that will do harm to Medicaid enrollees in Maryland,” said Jeananne Sciabarra, executive director of Consumer Health First.
Changes that have been under consideration in Congress include turning Medicaid into a block grant program, meaning the state would receive less funding for care. Changes at the federal level could also lead to Medicaid:
- Imposing work requirements on some enrollees.
- Imposing cost-sharing that will make the insurance unaffordable to some.
- Changing eligibility levels, pushing some people out of coverage.
- Reducing benefits, particularly for behavioral health, which could drastically reduce the number of people receiving treatment for opioid use.
“These kinds of changes would lead to reduced coverage and less access to care for many vulnerable Marylanders,” Sciabarra said. “The General Assembly took an important step by making sure all stakeholders have a role in planning to deal with these sorts of Medicaid changes. We believe this planning process will allow state officials and their partners to make decisions about the future of Medicaid that are data-driven and that promote equitable access to healthcare for all people in Maryland.”
Consumer Health First is taking the lead in developing a Medicaid collaborative made up of stakeholders including policy experts, representatives from impacted populations, hospitals, managed care organizations, public health experts, consumer advocates and providers.
Consumer Health First advocated successfully to include language in the
Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act
to ensure that the state must consult with key stakeholders about any change to Medicaid or the state Food Stamp program. The language reads: “In developing any changes or redesign to the Medical Assistance Program or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Human Resources shall establish a group of interested stakeholders to collaborate on any changes or program redesign.”