ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 23, 2012) - This week, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown testified before the Senate Finance Committee and the House Health & Government Operations Committee in support of the O'Malley-Brown Administration's Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 (SB 238/HB 443). In 2011, Lt. Governor Brown championed efforts to pass legislation creating the framework for the Exchange. This year's legislation is the next step for health care reform implementation in Maryland. It continues the State's efforts to meet federal deadlines for establishing a health benefit exchange that makes available qualified health plans available to eligible individuals and employers.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), Maryland's exchange must be certified as operational by January 1, 2013 and fully functioning by January 1, 2014. Maryland's Health Benefit Exchange is being established using no State funds due to $34.4 million in Federal grants that Maryland has received to plan and build the Exchange, including a $27.2 million Exchange Establishment grant and a $6.2 million innovator grant given to six states leading the way on reform implementation.

"Maryland's Health Benefit Exchange will be a transparent, competitive marketplace that allows Marylanders to compare rates, benefits and quality among private insurance plans to help them find one that best suits their needs," said Lt. Governor Brown. "The Exchange will provide a single location where small businesses and families can access tax credits and subsidies to purchase affordable, high quality health insurance products. While our legislation is based on the requirements of the ACA, it is crafted specifically to meet the needs of Maryland, thanks to input from numerous stakeholders who have participated in our open and collaborative process. If we fail to act and establish our Exchange, the Federal Government will create one for us and we will forfeit critical federal grants. We must continue moving forward with implementing health care reform in order to reduce costs, increase access, and improve the quality of health care for all Marylanders."

"We are committed to continuing to move forward to establish a robust, successful exchange that improves health care access for Marylanders," said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein. "This legislation reflects the Exchange Board's policy recommendations, which were crafted with input from a wide variety of stakeholders in order to create a system that works for Maryland."

Following 2011 legislation creating the framework for the exchange, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board worked with a broad range of experts and stakeholders to develop a series of policy recommendations. These included four advisory committees with stakeholders from the health insurance industry; health care providers and associations; community members, advocates, community-based organizations; academia; business owners; unions; local government officials; and consultants.

Based on the recommendations established through this open and collaborative process, the Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 seeks to put into place many of the policies that will guide the Exchange's operations, including outlining the types of health and dental plans that can be offered in the Exchange; operating individual and small business markets separately; establishing "Navigator Programs" to provide outreach and assistance to consumers; and addressing other key issues such as risk adjustment, market rules, and the prevention of fraud, waste and abuse.

Earlier this week, the nonpartisan Urban Institute released a report, the third in a series of ten briefs on states' implementation of the Affordable Care Act, summarizing their findings from a site visit and extensive interviews with Maryland state officials and health care stakeholders.

The report praises Maryland's efforts stating, "Unequivocal gubernatorial leadership and support set the tone for rapid and effective implementation [of the ACA]," and "Involving a broad range of stakeholders in the reform process, from the beginning, was critical in garnering buy-in and support."

The Urban Institute was created in 1968 in response to the need for independent nonpartisan analysis of the problems facing America's cities and their residents. The Urban Institute gathers data, conducts research, evaluates programs, offers technical assistance overseas, and educates Americans on social and economic issues in order to foster sound public policy and effective government. Their full report on Maryland's efforts to implement the ACA is available at

Lt. Governor Brown leads the O'Malley-Brown Administration's health care portfolio. Under the leadership of Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown, Maryland has implemented reforms that have expanded health coverage to over 310,000 Marylanders and put the State in position to maximize the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).