Healthcare - Overview
Since its inception, UULM-MD has worked to achieve universal access to affordable, quality healthcare. UU voices have joined with other advocates to support system changes and incremental advancements, as well as to protect the progress made. UUs believe in the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Quality, affordable healthcare should be available for all in order to provide each individual with health, wholeness and dignity.
Good healthcare is expensive. With each technological advance, care becomes more expensive and fewer people are able to afford it. Doctors and patients face dilemmas in delivery of care, breaks in doctor-patient understanding, inadequate or inappropriate treatments, bankruptcy and illness.
UULM-MD agrees that a federal single-payer system would provide universal coverage, but unfortunately significant consideration of this type of federal and state legislation has not taken place and does not look feasible in the near future. UULM-MD has supported the inclusion of a public option in reform legislation, but this has not yet been proposed or adopted.
Among other measures proposed over the last decade, UULM-MD strongly supported the Governor’s Working Families and Small Business Health Care Coverage Act of 2007, which has expanded Medicaid eligibility for working families and foster children; provided discounts on prescription drugs for seniors; improved access to mental health and substance abuse treatment for low-income adults; created healthcare grants to help small businesses provide benefits to their employees; and saved money.
Affordable Care Act
UULM-MD continues to support implementation of the Maryland implementation of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The Maryland Health Connection is a one-stop shop for health coverage in Maryland whether you qualify for public or private insurance. You are able to compare benefits, premiums, and prices. The Exchange’s Customer Service Center in Baltimore provides answers to questions about the new insurance program. The state-based insurance exchange provides access to financial assistance for individuals and families to help reduce the cost of monthly insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs. By law, under the Affordable Care Act, most people over the age of 18 must have health insurance beginning in 2014 or pay a fine.
A few basic facts:
- A number of insurance companies offer a variety of plans through the Exchange Marketplace in Maryland.
- If you have affordable employer-based coverage, that will continue. (If your employer offers you insurance and it meets minimum value health coverage as well as the requirements for affordability that the employer must meet (no more than 9.5 percent of your income), you will not be able to shop in the Marketplace.
- Those on Medicare will continue to receive coverage under Medicare with some Increased benefits, including reduced costs for prescription drugs during the Medicare Part D “doughnut hole,” a yearly wellness exam, and no out-of-pocket costs for some preventive services. It is illegal for someone to try to sell a policy through the Exchange to someone on Medicare.
- You can no longer be denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition.
- A child may continue to be covered on his/her parent’s policy until age 26.
- Lifetime caps on insurance coverage have been eliminated.
- Medicaid will be expanded.
- Coverage through the Exchange is not available for undocumented individuals.
The Affordable Care Act
GOAL: Passage of the Health Insurance Down Payment Proposal. This proposal would replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA’s) individual mandate eliminated in the recent federal tax reform legislation with a Maryland health insurance down payment plan. The federal individual mandate was a program that charged fines for individuals if they were not enrolled in a qualified health insurance plan. The Health Insurance Down Payment Proposal would allow a tax payer who is faced with a fine for not having qualifying coverage at tax time to have the option for this fine to go toward their health insurance in the Maryland Health Exchange. The work of UULM-MD will be in conjunction with Health Care for All and Consumer Health First as we are members of these coalitions. Senator Brian Feldman and Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk are the lead sponsors.
WHY: This is Maryland’s innovative response to federal attempts to roll back the ACA by ending the enforcement of the ACA’s individual mandate. This proposed legislation would replace the expiring federal mandate with down payments to help the uninsured get coverage while lowering costs of individuals that buy their own insurance. Doing this would increase the number of younger and healthier people in the insurance pool and allow for them to obtain federal subsidies if their jobs do not provide insurance or their incomes are not adequate to purchase insurance.
Maryland decreased the number of uninsured to 6.6% in 2015 from 11.3% after the ACA was implemented in 2013. However, there are still thousands of Marylanders eligible for the ACA who have not been enrolled. It is necessary to maintain those now covered by the ACA and increase the numbers. If this legislation is not passed, this will not be feasible as rates will increase and it will be harder to maintain and expand those insured.
BACKGROUND: UULM-MD has worked to achieve universal, accessible, affordable, and adequate health care for all since its formation in 2005. Unitarian Universalist (UU) voices have joined with many advocates in Maryland and nationally to support system changes, incremental advancements, and to protect the progress made. UUs have a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Thus, we believe quality and affordable health care should be available for all.
UULM-MD agrees a federal single payer system would be the best way to provide universal coverage. Unfortunately, significant support to implement this type of federal and state legislation has not taken place and does not look feasible in the near future. UULM-MD actively supported the passage of the Federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a major step in improving health care. Significant Congressional opposition has focused on trying to repeal or sabotage the ACA while public support has significantly increased.
Many ACA provisions have been successfully implemented including: removing lifetime limits, children remaining under their parents plans until 26, expanding Medicaid, closing the gap in drug coverage (donut hole), proving free preventive services, allowing an annual wellness visit, covering children with pre-existing conditions, and having most health plans in the individual and small group markets cover ten essential health benefit categories including hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, and mental health and substance use disorder services.
UULM-MD supported SB 238 which was enacted in 2012 and it set up the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the Maryland Health Connection (MHC). This is a marketplace to allow individuals and small businesses to join together to negotiate lower insurance premiums and discounts similar to what larger groups can do. MHC can improve health care, provide better health care insurance options and reduce costs.
Enrollment in the ACA began in Maryland on October 1, 2013 and has been offered during a specific enrollment period each year. The first insurance coverage became available January 1, 2014. Medicaid enrollments are on-going during the year and have expanded substantially under the ACA.
STATUS: UULM-MD has been monitoring the implementation of the ACA. With our coalition partners, we continue to do outreach including co-sponsoring events, responding as part of the Consumer Health First to regulations and plans, and helping inform UUs about how to obtain coverage. We signed on to support the legislation to improve health care with Health Care for All C including the enacted Healthy Maryland Initiative to increase the MD tobacco taxes and the enacted 2017 bill to prohibit price gouging by manufacturers of generic and off-patent drugs.
NEXT STEPS: UUs and congregations can help mobilize themselves and others to support passage of the UULM-MD 2018 health Priority, the Health Insurance Down Payment Proposal. Informing ourselves and speaking out to dispel myths about the ACA is crucial. Contact your legislators and ask their support for this important and innovative approach.
We can make a difference with members of the Maryland General Assembly!
UULM-MD is also supporting the proposed Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative to help make all drugs, including brand name and specialty drugs more affordable.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
- Health Care for All! Coalition (MD) healthcareforall.com – Information on legislation to improve health care--UULM-MD is a coalition member.
- Consumer Health First http://www.consumerhealthfirst.org -- information about MD Health Connection and ACA; formerly the Maryland Women's Coalition for Health Care Reform; UULM-MD is a coalition member.
- Maryland Health Connection marylandhealthconnection.gov or call the Consumer Support Center, 1-855-642-8572 for information and to sign-up
- Kaiser Family Foundation ACA info for consumers - http://kff.org/aca-consumer-resources