They include a ‘down payment’ on health insurance.
Annapolis, Md (KM) As the 2018 Maryland General Assembly gets down to business after it was gaveled into session in Wednesday, the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative is preparing its priority list for lawmakers.
Vinnie DeMarco, the President of Health Care for All, says one priority is a “down payment” for residents who don’t have health insurance. “When someone goes to pay their taxes, if they don’t have insurance, they will be to pay an amount that can be used and will be used to get them insurance,” he says. “This is to replace the individual mandate that President Trump and the Republicans in Congress eliminated.”
The tax cut bill passed by Congress eliminates that mandate, but DeMarco says citizens will still need to pay the fine in 2019 if they don’t have health insurance. He says this fine will become a “down payment” on health insurance under a proposal from the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative. “By doing this, we make sure that premiums don’t go up so high for everybody. It’s a smart way to make the Affordable Care Act strong and better in Maryland,” he says.
President Trump and Republicans in Congress have promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but two attempts last year failed. DeMarco says this law, sometimes called Obamacare, has helped insure more than 400,000 people in Maryland.
Another proposal deals with the high cost of medications. It would prohibit “gag rules” which prevent pharmacists from telling their customers about cheaper ways to get their drugs. It would also set up a drug cost review commission to determine reasonable costs for critical, life-saving drugs. “For example, the Hepatitis-C epidemic is really a serious problem in Maryland. It’s really hurting a lot of people. But the drug that could cure it this is so expensive that only 20% of the Marylanders who need it can afford it. We want to make sure every Marylander who needs these life-saving drugs can get them, and that’s what this drug cost commission is about,” DeMarco says.
A third proposal would strengthen Medicaid. DeMarco says Health Care for All is working on a measure to further expand access to Medicare to Marylanders who are making up to 200% of the federal poverty level guidelines through the creation of the Basic Health Plan. “It will only be done with federal money. It will not be requiring any new state money. But we’re going to reallocate the federal money coming into Maryland to put people on the Medicaid programs” says DeMarco.
He says Medicaid only covers one in five Marylanders.
DeMarco says he’s confident these proposals will pass the General Assembly this year. “These measures together will help the individuals and the system as a whole so more Marylanders can afford quality health care,” he says.
By Kevin McManus