Law establishes framework for health benefit exchange, enacts federal consumer protections on the state level
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 12, 2011) – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s Health Care Reform Package, a significant milestone for federal health care reform implementation in Maryland. The Health Care Reform Package, championed by Lt. Governor Brown, co-chair of Maryland’s Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, will help reduce costs, expand access and improve the quality of health care in Maryland.
According to research by the independent Hilltop Institute, implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will save Maryland an estimated $850 million and cut the number of Marylanders without health insurance in half by 2020. The package signed into law today establishes a framework for Maryland’s health benefit exchange and gives the Maryland Insurance Commissioner the authority to enforce consumer protections in the ACA, which have already gone into effect.
“With the signing of our health care reform package, Maryland is ready to seize the opportunity provided by federal health care reform to lower costs, expand access and improve the quality of care for all Marylanders,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “I would like to thank the General Assembly for their hard work and all stakeholders for coming together to address concerns and ensure that health care reform is implemented as effectively and efficiently as possible. Because of Maryland’s record of leadership and innovation in health care, we are well-positioned to maximize federal reform in order to make Maryland the healthiest state in the nation.”
"The signing of these bills reflects Maryland's commitment to realizing the opportunity of health care reform," said DHMH Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein. "Working together, we are moving step by step towards stronger insurance coverage, better cost control and greater access to care."
Maryland’s exchange will help individuals and small employers shop for, select, and enroll in high-quality, affordable private health plans that fit their needs at competitive prices. Exchanges will help low-income Marylanders and small businesses access federal subsidies and tax credits to make coverage more affordable. All States are required to have their health benefit exchange certified by the federal government by Jan 1, 2013 and operational by January 1, 2014. States who do not establish an exchange will be required to participate in the federal exchange.
“We support the legislation being signed today by Governor O’Malley and appreciate Lt. Governor Brown, Secretary Sharfstein and the General Assembly reaching out to our members to learn about our concerns,” said Jonathan Anders chairman of the Joint Legislative Committee representing the interests of life and health insurance brokers in Maryland “There are many issues that require further study and we look forward to working with the Administration and General Assembly to build an exchange that will connect more Marylanders to affordable insurance.”
"The Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition commends the O'Malley-Brown Administration and the General Assembly for enacting SB 182 which will put Maryland at the forefront of the states in fully implementing the federal Affordable Care Act." said Vincent DeMarco, President of the Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition. "The open and transparent process which led to this result will help make quality health care affordable for all Marylanders."
The O’Malley-Brown health care reform package also includes measures to improve the quality of insurance by aligning Maryland law with the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, which have already gone into effect. These include: barring insurers from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, eliminating lifetime limits on essential benefits, requiring insurance companies to cover certain preventive services like mammograms and flu shots, and allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ policies until age 26.
"With the signing of the health care reform package, Maryland can continue to use its strong regulatory tools in order for consumers to fully benefit from the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that are applicable today," said Beth Sammis, Acting Insurance Commissioner. "This includes making sure most of the premium dollar is spent on medical care, allowing children to be covered on their parents policy until age 26, prohibiting denials of coverage for children with a pre-existing medical condition, and ensuring payment of claims for services covered under the policy."
Additionally, the legislation creates a nine member Governing Board for the exchange that is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Board will appoint an Executive Director who can hire core staff and begin to establish those functions and duties which are required as part of the Affordable Care Act. These include developing the necessary components to determine eligibility for Medicaid, creating seamless information sharing systems and providing access to federal subsidies. Other provisions, which are subject to existing state legislation, will be addressed in the 2012 Legislative Session by the General Assembly based on recommendations from the Exchange’s advisory groups.
By December 23, 2011, the Exchange’s board must study and report back to the Governor and General Assembly on a number of key issues that will impact the operation of Maryland’s exchange. These include: the role of health insurance brokers, the types of health insurance plans to be offered by the Exchange, the design and role of the small business exchange, whether the individual and small group markets should be merged, and the mechanism for ensuring financial sustainability by 2015.
Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s health care portfolio. Governor O’Malley appointed Brown co-chair of the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council. Brown also chairs the Health Quality and Cost Council.