ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 10, 2011) - The Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council (Council), co-chaired by Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John M. Colmers, today submitted to Governor Martin O'Malley its final report and recommendations guiding Maryland's successful implementation of federal health care reform.
"Federal health reform presents states with an opportunity to expand access to coverage, improve the quality of care and save hundreds of millions of dollars. I applaud my colleagues on the Health Reform Coordinating Council for developing a national model to implement federal reform, and I am excited to work with the General Assembly and our partners in the health care industry to ensure that we successfully build on the progress we made together in our first term," Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown said. "I will lead efforts during the 2011 General Assembly session to pass legislation creating a health exchange and I'll work closely with Governor O'Malley and Secretary-designee Joshua Sharfstein to establish the Governor's Office of Health Reform. It's our responsibility and duty to implement federal reform and we know that if we do it right, reform will save Maryland nearly $830 million and cut the number of uninsured in half."
"I sincerely thank Lt. Governor Brown, Secretary Colmers and the entire Health Care Reform Coordinating Council for their work over the last nine months. Because of the reforms we passed together in our state during the 2007 special session, we are better positioned than nearly any other state to successfully implement federal reform," said Governor Martin O'Malley. "The federal legislation President Obama signed last March is the most significant step forward to protect the health of our most vulnerable neighbors. But it also makes economic sense. Federal reform saves Maryland money."
The Council's final report provides an overview of the federal Affordable Care Act and makes 16 specific recommendations to guide the state's implementation of reform. Most notably, the Council recommends legislation establishing a health benefit exchange and executive action creating a Governor's Office of Health Reform to guide the state's ongoing actions. The report identifies four building blocks of reform that work together to reduce the number of uninsured, improve health, and lower costs: (1) a responsibility to have coverage; (2) assistance for small businesses and low-income individuals; (3) market reforms to make coverage accessible; and (4) a marketplace to buy coverage. The Council's interim report, released in July, found that implementation of the Affordable Care Act will save Maryland $829 million over 10 years and cut the number of uninsured Marylanders by half.
"We now have the blueprint that will help Maryland build a new and improved era of health care for millions of Marylanders," said John M. Colmers, DHMH Secretary. "This era of health care reform will be marked by expanded consumer protections, easier and more affordable access for many more families and the tools that will help bend the curve on health care costs that never existed before."
The legislation recommended by the Council would enable the State to establish the initial structure and governance of the Maryland health insurance exchange in compliance with federal deadlines. Once fully operational, the exchange will be self-sustaining, provide a single point of entry for Marylanders seeking to obtain insurance, and allow eligible individuals and small businesses to access federal subsidies.
The report also recommends that the Council continue to function through 2014 in order to monitor progress on recommendations, provide input to implementation activities, and serve as an advisory body to a newly-created Governor's Office of Health Reform. The Office of Health Reform would assume primary responsibility for health reform implementation.
The full list of recommended action items follows:
- Recommendation One: Establish the basic structure and governance of Maryland's Health Benefit Exchange.
- Recommendation Two: Continue development of the State's plan for seamless entry into coverage to meet federal implementation deadlines and to maximize federal funding for information technology systems and infrastructure.
- Recommendation Three: Develop a centralized education and outreach strategy.
- Recommendation Four: Develop State and local strategic plans to achieve improved health outcomes.
- Recommendation Five: Encourage active participation of safety net providers in health reform and new insurance options.
- Recommendation Six: Improve coordination of behavioral health and somatic services.
- Recommendation Seven: Incorporate strategies to promote access to high quality care for special populations.
- Recommendation Eight: Institute comprehensive workforce development planning.
- Recommendation Nine: Promote and support education and training to expand Maryland's health care workforce pipeline.
- Recommendation Ten: Explore improvements in professional licensing and administrative policies and processes.
- Recommendation Eleven: Explore changes in Maryland's health care workforce liability policies.
- Recommendation Twelve: Achieve cost savings and quality improvements through payment reform and innovation in health care delivery models.
- Recommendation Thirteen: Promote improved access to primary care.
- Recommendation Fourteen: Achieve reduction and elimination of health disparities through exploration of financial, performance-based incentives and incorporation of other strategies.
- Recommendation Fifteen: Preserve Maryland's strong base of employer-sponsored insurance.
- Recommendation Sixteen: Ensure continued leadership and oversight of health care reform implementation by establishing a Governor's Office of Health Reform.
Since taking office in 2007, the O'Malley-Brown administration has championed a series of reforms and initiatives similar to some components of the Affordable Care Act that have helped expand health coverage to over 235,000 uninsured Marylanders, including 100,000 children. These initiatives include incentives to small business owners to provide insurance for employees, the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to low-income parents, new laws that allow young adults to remain on their parents' insurance plan up to the age of 25, and a program that helps close the Medicare prescription drug donut hole.
Despite partisan efforts on Capitol Hill that may attempt to repeal or weaken federal health reform, Maryland officials remain committed to implementing the law and ensuring that Marylanders receive the full complement of its health and economic benefits. The Council's interim report, released in July, found that federal health reform will save Maryland $829 million and cut the number of uninsured Marylanders by half. By contrast, according to a nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office report released last week, a repeal of the health reform law would add $230 billion to the federal deficit by 2021.
Governor O'Malley created the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council through Executive Order in March 2010 to advise the Administration on policies and procedures to implement the Affordable Care Act as efficiently and effectively as possible. As states assume the critical role of implementing multiple aspects of health care reform, the Council will continue to make policy recommendations and offer implementation strategies to keep Maryland among the leading states in expanding quality, affordable health care while reducing waste and controlling costs.
Upon taking office in 2007, Governor O'Malley tasked Lt. Governor Brown to lead the O'Malley-Brown administration's health care portfolio. During the 2010 legislative session, Brown championed efforts to pass the Maryland False Health Claims Act which will help the state recover in FY11 over $46.5 million of Medicaid funds that were stolen from taxpayers. Brown also led efforts to create the Patient Centered Medical Home program that offers providers incentives to spend more time with patients and focus more closely on preventative care.
In 2008, Lt. Governor Brown - a Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and the nation's highest-ranking elected official to serve a tour of duty in Iraq - partnered with members from both parties in the General Assembly to pass the Veterans Behavioral Health Act which improved and expanded mental and behavioral health services for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
For additional information on the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council and to access the full report, visit http://spdev.dhmh.md.gov:21115/healthreform/SitePages/Home.aspx.