In this edition of “5 Things We’re Watching,” we have a deep dive into health items in the budget, a look at workforce challenges facing the state, and a conversation on how state leaders are preparing for Medicaid redetermination.
And, in case you missed it, registration is now open for the 2022 Maryland State of Reform Health Policy Conference coming up on May 4. More on that below.
State of Reform
1. Budget increases for community health programs
The Maryland House Health and Social Services Appropriations subcommittee reviewed the FY 2023 budgets for three regulatory health commissions under the Department of Health last week. State of Reform Reporter Nicole Pasia outlines key highlights from the $262.6 million budget, including a $49.7 million increase for the Community Health Resources Commission to “provide integrated access to community-based behavioral health services for students and families.”
Approximately $19.9 million is slated to go toward operating expenses for the Health Services Cost Review Commission, which is responsible for regulating hospital rates under the Total Cost of Care Model. Additionally, $18.9 million would support operating expenses for the Maryland Health Care Commission. MHCC Executive Director Ben Steffen says the commission plans to invest in provider organizations and expanding the use of health information technology in the state.
2. Early Bird pricing ends Friday
Early Bird rates for the 2022 Maryland State of Reform Health Policy Conference end this Friday! So, if you already know you want to be with us and a few hundred of your closest friends in Maryland health care, you can save a few bucks and get signed up now to join us on May 4.
Our Convening Panel is currently reviewing and commenting on our Topical Agenda, which we will release in a few weeks’ time. If you have any topics, speakers, or content ideas, we would love to hear them. And, if you already know that you want to join us in May, be sure to take advantage of the discounted price and register today!
3. Preparation for Medicaid redetermination
State leaders across the country are preparing for the impending end of the federal public health emergency, which may instigate a lengthy eligibility redetermination process for folks currently enrolled in Medicaid. In this Q&A, Maryland’s Deputy Medicaid Director Tricia Roddy and Office of Eligibility Executive Director Debra Ruppert discuss the steps the agency has taken to prepare for potential disenrollments.
Roddy says Maryland is in a unique position in that they have been doing redeterminations since March 2020 and are keeping up with the process as much as they can. She says it’s important to make sure there is clear communication and outreach to impacted individuals to ensure they are connected to health coverage. “We share files with our MCOs for recipients who need to do renewals. MCOs also do outreach through their community efforts to get individuals to come back. We have contracts with 24 of our local health departments and they do outreach,” says Ruppert.
4. Baltimore considers overdose prevention sites
Harm reduction advocates recently briefed state legislators on the impacts of establishing overdose prevention sites (OPS) in Baltimore, which would provide a monitored environment for people to use previously-obtained drugs. Policymakers heard from Kailin See, the director of two established overdose prevention sites in New York. See said the two sites have diverted over 100 overdoses since November 2021.
Research suggests a similar movement in Baltimore would garner community support. A 2022 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that 65% of respondents, who were Baltimore business owners and employees, would support OPS in their neighborhood.
5. Workforce challenges across the state
Despite seeing a downturn in omicron hospitalizations, the Maryland Hospital Association says “staggering” workforce shortages are limiting hospitals’ capacity to meet the needs of all Marylanders. Earlier this month, MHA announced Maryland hospitals have over 3,900 nursing vacancies, representing a 50% increase since late August.
These shortages are also impacting the Maryland Department of Health. Since 2020, close to 1 in 5 public health workers have left MDH, according to policy analysts at the Dept. of Legislative Services. During this time, approximately 376 hospital and direct care service workers, and 243 administrative and regulatory workers, have also left the department. MDH’s overall vacancy rate is about 13 percent.