5 Things Maryland: Pre-filed bills, Pandemic legislative innovations, Health care agenda outline

Welcome to our inaugural edition of 5 Things We’re Watching in Maryland health care. This market and policy intelligence newsletter covers Maryland health care and health policy, and highlights some of our independent reporting on state and federal issues.

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With help from Shawna De La Rosa

1. Del. Carr outlines health care agenda

Delegate Alfred Carr serves on the House Health and Government Operations Committee. In an interview with State of Reform reporter Mansur Shaheen, Carr outlines the policy areas that he thinks will get traction in the upcoming session. In short, COVID won’t be slowing things down.

“We will be looking at prescription drugs, equity in the health care system, telehealth, occupations, nursing homes, Medicaid, medical cannabis… There is a bill I am doing with Sen. Clarence Lamb that would establish a pathway to licensure for genetic counselors in Maryland.”

 

2. Pre-filed bills getting scheduled for hearings

Early legislation for the 2021 sessions is already getting scheduled for hearings in January and February. In the Senate, the Preserve Telehealth Access Act, SB 3, has 13 early sponsors and a January hearing date. So does a bill on requiring police officers have a mental health benefit in their EAP. Sen. Simonaire has a hearing on Jan. 26th for his bill on “mental health first aid” for veterans, and Sen. Kelley has a hearing for her bill to create a “Task Force on Oral Health In Maryland.”

In the House, Del. Joseline Pena-Melnyk already has 7 health-related bills, of which 5 have hearings scheduled in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. She is the committee vice chair. The House Committee has 13 meetings scheduled through February 11th.

 

3. How the legislature will function with COVID

The Maryland legislature may be more transparent for the public, but more limiting for the professional advocates that typically walk the halls of Annapolis. That is the takeaway from some of the state’s lobbying community as they prepare for the session.

The House will be split into two rooms to manage spacing with plexiglass around desks. Floor activity will be limited to high priority action of no more than 2 hours. Direction in the Senate says the body is unlikely to convene daily. Committees will have strict guidance on the number of witnesses. Even folks who line up outdoors to advocate for their position will still need to be six feet away. It’s hard to whisper a bit of news or gossip if you’re yelling through a mask with a bunch of others standing around.

 

4. COVID vaccines in competing charts

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects a positive and immediate impact on COVID transmission in Maryland from the “Rapid rollout” of the COVID vaccine. This is in spite of the current surge in Maryland featured at a recent legislative briefing. It’s reason for hope as we head into 2021. But, don’t think that means you’ll be accessing the vaccine anytime soon.

Projections from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggest vaccines won’t be widely available until at least September, 2021, and may stretch into 2022. The CDC updated its phased approach this month, but a more detailed phasing in of vaccines was presented recently at the House Public Health and Minority Health Disparities Subcommittee on Dec. 10th. If you’re healthy and under 65, plan to wait a few months for your shots.

 

5. Biden transition leans on Marylanders

The Biden transition is leaning on Agency Review Teams to help staff the new administration. It includes a number of Marylanders, including Meena Sheshami of MedStar, Luciano Borio from Johns Hopkins, Yngvild Olsen from REACH Health Services, and Dr. Tom Inglesby from the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Higher profile appointments from Maryland include Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General and Dr. Rochelle Walensky to lead the CDC. While Walensky is currently based in Massachusetts, she is originally from Maryland and received her medical degree from Hopkins. Murthy served as Co-Chair of Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board. If you add in Dr. Anthony Fauci as the newly appointed “Chief Medical Advisor on COVID-19 to the President,” it means three of the five senior appointees on health care have Maryland connections.