According to an estimate from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, approximately 30% of Marylanders have had COVID so far. That’s a number greater than Virginia and Pennsylvania, but less than Florida and Texas.
Disease experts tell me it’s clear COVID is endemic in our system. It will likely never go away, at least in our lifetimes. Seroprevalence will get close to 100%. That means at some point, everyone in your family will get it. And when they do, they’ll have more mitigated complications if they are vaccinated than if they are not. So, strengthening their future immune responses by getting vaccinated now makes a lot of sense.
With help from Emily Boerger
1. Q&A: Secretary Dennis Schrader
With close to 79% of staff fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Maryland is a leader in nursing home vaccinations. However, the state’s latest rankings show wide variation in staff vaccinations, with some nursing homes reporting 100% vaccinations, while others are in the 49-50% range.
State of Reform Reporter Aaron Kunkler spoke with Health Secretary Dennis Schrader about the importance of these rankings and ensuring that vaccination rates are made public. “Part of the reason why we’re putting them in a top 10 and bottom 10 is that many institutions in the nursing home industry have done a very good job and they’re working hard, and they’re doing their best to reach high levels of staff vaccination. And others are just not getting it done, and that’s a problem.”
2. Health equity committee begins meetings
Minority health disparities cost Maryland between $1 billion and $2 billion per year in direct medical costs, according to a presentation given at the Health Equity Resource Community (HERC) Advisory Committee‘s first meeting held earlier this month. The committee was created as part of the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act which will provide new grant funding and resources to address health disparities.
The HERC advisory committee is charged with helping develop those grants. During the meeting, the committee announced the creation of three subcommittees: Pathways Call for Proposals, Data & Program Evaluation, and Consumer Outreach and Community Engagement. The three subcommittees have meetings scheduled for the beginning of September and are currently accepting public comments.
3. Maryland model stands out in CMS review
After reviewing more than 50 alternative payment models, earlier this month CMS released its vision for the next 10 years of value-based care. The agency found that over the years, just six models generated statistically significant savings for taxpayers and Medicare. One of the six was Maryland’s All-Payer model.
Looking toward the next decade, the review states that CMS will focus on launching fewer models, it will make equity a centerpiece of every model, and it will re-evaluate how it designs financial incentives to ensure provider participation. It states: “While voluntary models can demonstrate a proof of concept, they limit the potential savings and full ability to test an intervention, because participants can opt in when they believe they will benefit financially and opt out (or never join) when they believe they are at risk for losses.”
4. State leaders push for renter relief
Following the US Supreme Court’s decision last week to block federal protections for tenants, members of Maryland’s Congressional delegation are calling for state and federal renter relief. Congressman Anthony G. Brown called on lawmakers to vote to extend the federal eviction moratorium when Congress returns, and urged Gov. Hogan to extend Maryland’s now-expired moratorium.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen says its “unacceptable” that only a small portion of the $753 million in Maryland’s Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) has been distributed. Through the end of July, $59.5 million of the first round of ERAP funding had been distributed, with $36.5 million payments in progress. Advocates – including Baltimore Renters United and Renters United Maryland – are calling on the General Assembly to convene for a special session to address renter protections. According to the National Equity Atlas, 117,000 Maryland households are behind on rent.
5. $48 million slated for behavioral health grants
$48 million in grant money from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) is slated to go to over 15 initiatives in Maryland aimed at creating and expanding behavioral health services statewide. $16 million will be awarded through the Community Mental Health Service Block Grant program, and $32 million will be awarded through the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant program.
MDH’s Behavioral Health Administration chose grant recipients based on which programs could produce immediate help. Funding will go toward early serious mental illness services, crisis care infrastructure, suicide prevention, workforce development, expansion of peer supports, and programs for pregnant women and women with children.