Governor's Office News Release

BALTIMORE, MD (March 24, 2011) - Today, Governor Martin O'Malley, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and numerous Maryland and federal officials commemorated the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and highlighted the law's benefits for Marylanders. According to research by the independent Hilltop Institute, the ACA will save Maryland an estimated $850 million and cut the number of Marylanders living without health insurance in half by 2020.

Maryland has become a national leader in health care reform and innovation. Since 2007, the O'Malley-Brown Administration has championed measures that have expanded health care coverage to 262,000 Marylanders, provided small businesses with incentives to offer coverage to employees, expanded dental care to low income children and launched initiatives, such as the Patient Centered Medical Home pilot and the Healthiest Maryland program, aimed to promote prevention and to coordinate patient care.

"I am so pleased to celebrate the one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act," said Governor O'Malley. "Since 2007, Maryland has been working to reform and expand health care - closing the Medicare Donut Hole for our seniors, allowing dependents to stay on their families' health insurance until age 25, and expanding care to thousands of Marylanders. And thanks to President Obama's leadership and our Congressional delegation, more of our families and children will have access to the health care services they need and the quality, affordable coverage they deserve."

"The Affordable Care Act represents a unique opportunity to expand access, improve the quality of care and make health care more affordable for more Marylanders," said Lt. Governor Brown, co-chair of Maryland's Health Care Reform Coordinating Council. "Because we have led the way in health care innovation, Maryland is better positioned than most to maximize federal health care reform. My colleagues and I on the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council have worked to develop a national model for implementing reform, and we will use every advantage provided by the Affordable Care Act to make Maryland the healthiest state in the nation."

This afternoon, Governor O'Malley joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, and Attorney General Doug Gansler for a roundtable discussion with Maryland stakeholders at the Consumer Assistance Program Center in Baltimore. The conversation highlighted ways the Consumer Assistance Program in Maryland and similar programs throughout the country are helping consumers navigate insurance options for their families.

"The Affordable Care Act is an historic step forward for the health of women and families, and is putting health care decisions in the hands of patients and their doctors. As the primary health care decision-makers for their families, women stand to benefit tremendously from new benefits like free recommended preventive care in new plans and a ban on denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions," said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "The Consumer Assistance Grant program provides states with funds to help consumers navigate the insurance market, expand staff and capability, and improve outreach. States project these grants will assist 99 million people in the first year of this program. Maryland is leading the way in ensuring that consumers have access to the best information available on their health care options."

"I'm really proud of the consumer protections in our health law, and particularly proud of what we did to help women," U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski said. "We ended gender discrimination by big health insurance companies. No longer can they charge women more than men for the same coverage. No longer can women be denied coverage for being a victim of domestic violence or for having had a medically mandated C-section. And when they wanted to take our mammograms away, I introduced the women's preventive health amendment to guarantee coverage of preventive care and screenings - like mammograms - with no co-pay and no deductible. I'll keep fighting for health care reform and strong consumer protections for families, women and children."

The Health Education and Advocacy Unit (HEAU), a division of the Office of Attorney General, has been advocating for consumers in the health care marketplace for over two decades. The Unit was recently awarded a federal Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) grant that will allow it to provide assistance to more Marylanders, expand outreach and education efforts, assist consumers in exploring health coverage options, and educate consumers about their new rights under the Affordable Care Act.

"In 2010, the HEAU was used as a model program when the federal health reform law mandated grant funding for consumer assistance programs nationwide," said Attorney General Gansler. "I am pleased that as a direct result of the Affordable Care Act, the HEAU will be able to strengthen and expand its services to Marylanders to include providing education and assistance to consumers exploring their insurance options. With these additional funds, the HEAU will continue to provide the excellent service to Maryland consumers it has provided for more than 20 years."

Parts of the ACA have already been enacted, including the elimination of lifetime dollar limits on insurance coverage, allowing parents to keep children on their coverage through age 26, and a ban on excluding children from coverage because of a preexisting condition. According to a White House report released this week, an estimated nearly 55,000 Marylanders who fall in Medicare prescription drug coverage "donut hole" have received $250 rebates to help with their prescription costs, and over 700,000 Marylanders on Medicare are now able to receive free preventive care services.

Maryland has also received over $100 million in federal grants for the implementation of the ACA, including a $6.2 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services for beginning to plan for Maryland's health benefit exchange.

This session, Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown are championing three bills to expand access, improve the quality of care and lower costs:

  • Improve Access - Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2011(HB 166/SB 182): This bill establishes a structure and framework to develop the insurance exchange required by the Affordable Care Act. The exchange will provide individuals and small businesses one-stop shopping for affordable insurance options; help an estimated 180,000 low-income Marylanders access federal subsidies for coverage; support small business access to affordable coverage; and allow private insurers to offer competitive plans in a fair and transparent marketplace where consumers will be able to compare rates, benefits, and quality to find plans that best suit their needs.
  • Improve Quality - Health Insurance Reforms (HB 170/SB 183): This bill aligns Maryland law with the consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, including the provisions that bar exclusions from insurance based on pre-existing conditions and lifetime limits on benefits, requirements that insurance companies cover certain preventive services like mammograms and flu shots, and the provision that allows young adults to stay on their parents' policies until age 26.
  • Lowering Costs - Health Quality and Cost Council (HB 165/SB 175): This legislation will establish the Council in law and expand the state's successful effort to bring public agencies and the private sector together to improve the quality and reduce the cost of health care in Maryland.