5 Things Maryland: Workforce recommendations, Q&A w/ Sen. Mary Washington, Abortion Care Access Act

I want to give a big shout out to Nicole Pasia, who leads State of Reform’s reporting in Maryland, for her help in preparing this newsletter each month! This edition of “5 Things We’re Watching” features several stories that are a direct result of the in-depth reporting and conversations she’s had with health care leaders across the state.

If you have story tips for Nicole, you can reach out to her here.

Thank you for reading!

Emily Boerger
State of Reform

 

1. Lawmakers to support immigrant health workers

In the midst of a severe workforce shortage in Maryland, immigrants who are not yet citizens are often barred from registering with a health occupations board, regardless of their education or certification qualifications. In a conversation with State of Reform, Sen. Cheryl Kagan says the policy “makes no sense,” especially when many immigrants receive in-state tuition and scholarships for education in the health care field.

Last session, Kagan sponsored SB 523, which would have removed these licensure barriers. The bill passed the Senate, but the session adjourned before the House could take a vote. Kagan says she plans to re-sponsor the bill during the 2023 legislative session, with support from the opposite chamber, including Health and Government Operations Chair Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk.

 

2. Abortion Care Access Act goes into effect

Maryland’s Abortion Care Access Act, which went into effect last month, provides a “first-in-the-nation” approach to abortion care in a post-Roe v. Wade world. The act aims to expand access to care through the expansion of eligible abortion care providers and by requiring certain insurers to cover services.

The Abortion Care Clinical Training Program under the act is set to officially begin on July 1st, 2023. However, advocates are hoping to release $3.5 million in funding for the program as soon as January of next year. In this piece, Robyn Elliott, a Partner at Public Policy Partners, says the November general elections will play a major role in the future of the state’s abortion policy.


3. What They’re Watching: Sen. Mary Washington

Sen. Mary Washington, who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Youth, and Families, says investing in youth mental health will be a top priority for her during the next legislative session. In this “What They’re Watching” interview, Washington discusses the importance of mental health supports for children—particularly in light of the pandemic and its impact on schooling.

“We really have to focus very strongly on [the pandemic’s] impacts on young children, children transitioning back to school … and just recognize that there’s a whole cohort of children that have been shaped by this global pandemic and its impacts on their families and economy. We need to make sure that our systems are supported and are capable of handling those.”

 

4. Details on Maryland’s ARPA spending

From March 2021 to June 2022, Maryland spent $2.4 billion (67%) of the $3.7 billion the state was allocated in American Rescue Plan, State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). About $1.9 billion of those funds were allocated to addressing negative economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and $221 million of the funds were dedicated to public health spending.

Notable funding projects include a budgeted $31 million for provider assistance, which included $26 million for a temporary 2% nursing home rate increase and $5 million for Developmental Disabilities Administration provider grants. The state also spent $159 million of the funds for community and public benefits and $314 million for public sector assistance.


5. Task force releases workforce recommendations

The Task Force on Maryland’s Future Health Workforce released an extensive report earlier this month outlining recommendations to combat the state’s critical workforce shortage. Recent data from a 2022 GlobalData report, commissioned by the Maryland Hospital Association, reveals there is a statewide shortage of about 5,000 full-time registered nurses and 4,000 licensed practical nurses. Without intervention, the GlobalData report shows shortages could more than double by 2035.

The report provides specific recommendations that fall into 4 categories: expanding the workforce pipeline, removing barriers to health education, retaining the health workforce, and leveraging talent with new care models. The task force specifically recommends that hospitals and health systems commit to making additional clinical training sites available, partner with community-based organizations for local workforce development, and ensure that wellbeing and inclusion are embedded in organizational values.