Think Tank Offers Proposal to Combat Maryland Health Care Rate Shock
By Mark Uncapher
While many Democrats still prefer to refer to Obamacare as the “Affordable Care Act” or ACA, “affordable” seems to be least appropriate way to describe what has occurred since it was signed into law eight years ago.
Many who would agree with that bleak assessment are among the more than 150,000 Marylanders who purchase health insurance on the state health exchange. They currently face premium increases as high as 50% this coming October.
The Maryland Public Policy Institute has recently released a roadmap for improving the state’s health insurance market.
“Skyrocketing premiums could be the ‘October Surprise’ no Marylander wants or deserves,” said Christopher B. Summers, president and chief executive officer of the Institute. “Maryland’s health insurance customers deserve better choices, not higher premiums. Our latest report encourages regulators and policymakers to embrace the opportunity to innovate and meet consumer needs rather than adding new rules and layers of bureaucracy on a collapsing health insurance market.”
At the federal level, the Trump administration has taken a variety of actions toward the ACA that gives Maryland and other states the opportunity to innovate in how they regulate health insurance and health care, as well as how they administer Medicaid. Regulators and legislators should take advantage of this federal leeway by allowing consumers greater freedom to purchase insurance that meets their needs and budgets, reforming Medicaid to contain costs and prioritize the neediest recipients and giving more opportunities for health care professionals and facilities to serve consumers in Maryland.
Maryland Public Policy Institute’s report is entitled “Maryland’s Path Forward Under the Affordable Care Act” and is authored by Senior Fellow Marc Kilmer. The roadmap offers four key reforms to help Maryland families and individuals find better health coverage.
- Make Insurance Affordable, Not Mandatory: The Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation to re-establish the individual mandate, a key component of the ACA that forced individuals to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty. The federal tax reform bill effectively eliminated this penalty. Maryland lawmakers should reject efforts to resurrect the mandate on the state level and should instead encourage the sale of more diverse insurance products, so people can find a product they like. To do so, lawmakers should reduce the number of health care services and procedures that insurers are mandated to provide in every state-regulated plan.
- Remove Restrictions on Association Health Plans (AHPs): AHPs offer another way for Marylanders to obtain affordable health care coverage. These plans are typically offered by associations bringing together people in the same occupations and are more likely to be tailored to meet particular needs that individuals in an occupation share. The federal government recently enacted rules making AHPs more attractive and doing so at the state level would strengthen another health coverage product to help Marylanders meet their diverse health care needs.
- Reform Medicaid: Maryland’s $11 billion Medicaid program continues to expand with little accountability. The Institute’s report recommends requiring work from childless, able-bodied adults on Medicaid, freezing enrollment, and reducing its wait list of 46,000 residents.
- Allow More Healthcare Personnel and Facilities to Serve Maryland: Maryland must expand access to health care, not merely health insurance. The Institute’s report also recommends expanding telemedicine, ending restrictions on building healthcare facilities, and allowing nurse practitioners, physicians assistants, and dental hygienists greater ability to serve patients when a doctor is not available.
The full report can be found at mdpolicy.org.