Health advocates praise productive legislative session
Maryland lawmakers passed several key pieces of health-related legislation during its 2021 session, including the expansion of health insurance subsidies for lower-income young adults and maternal Medicaid eligibility. Bills passed during the session will also improve equitable access to care.
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Vincent DeMarco, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative president, said the state’s General Assembly passed major bills that will work in tandem to improve health care and services.
“These bills address the critical problem of health inequities in our state and will help bring new health resources to underserved areas. They will also make insurance more affordable to young adults and make it easier for people who lose their jobs to apply for affordable health insurance through the Maryland Health Connection. We congratulate the lawmakers who supported these important measures and urge Governor Hogan to sign them into law.”
Michele Eberle, executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, said the state was able to build on the American Rescue Plan and implement all three health insurance changes introduced by the act, which include enhanced COBRA and marketplace subsidies and premium tax credit provisions.
“These were the expansion of financial help, additional provisions for people who were on unemployment in 2021, and additional financial help for consumers who already have plans through Maryland Health Connection. We recognize the struggles the pandemic continues to create and the value of health coverage, so our goal was to get Marylanders the help they need as quickly as possible.”
The key pieces of health care legislation passed in the 2021 Maryland General Assembly Session include:
- Health Equity Resource Communities: SB 172, sponsored by Sen. Antonio Hayes, and HB 463, sponsored by Delegates Erek Barron and Jazz Lewis, will create Health Equity Resource Communities that will receive new funding to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes by improving access to care.
- Health Insurance Premium Subsidies: SB 729, sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman, and HB 780, sponsored by Del. Ken Kerr, authorizes the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange to provide new health insurance coverage subsides for lower-income young adults, a key step in making insurance more affordable.
- Expand Insurance Enrollment for the Unemployed: SB 893, sponsored by Sen. Jim Rosapepe, and HB 1002, sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian, will connect people who file for unemployment insurance with the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange so they can easily access health coverage. This builds on Maryland’s successful first-in-the-nation Easy Enrollment law that connects people to health insurance when they file their state taxes.
- Shirley Nathan-Pulliam Health Equity Act: SB 52, sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington, and HB 78, sponsored by Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, will establish the Maryland Commission on Health Equity which will provide recommendations on how to achieve health equity and develop a comprehensive health equity plan for the state.
- Maternal Medicaid Eligibility: SB 923, sponsored by Sen. Mary Washington, expands Maryland’s Medicaid eligibility to ensure pregnant program recipients are able to receive comprehensive dental and health care services for the duration of the pregnancy and for a full year afterwards, a key step towards achieving improved maternal health outcomes.
- Preserve Telehealth Access Act: SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Melony Griffith, and HB 123 sponsored by Del. Peña-Melnyk, expands the definitions of telehealth and requires reimbursement for these services, ensuring those who can benefit from remote-access to providers are able to utilize telehealth.
- Health Equity Legislation: Sen. Melony Griffith and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk sponsored additional legislation to ensure state agencies are collecting data on race and ethnicity, tracking health disparities and operating under a health equity framework. These bills include SB 5 & HB 28 to establish standards for implicit bias training and data collection and SB 565 & HB 309, which would require the Maryland Health Care Commission to publish a report card including racial and ethnic composition data.