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10/04/2013

The Maryland Health Connection is Coming to an Insurance Plan Near You

While many states chose not to act after the passage of the Affordable Care Act to see if the  legislation would get the Supreme Court’s seal of approval, Maryland jumped into action.  Being one of the first 6 states to have their insurance exchanges approved by the federal government, Maryland should have been more than ready for the October 1st deadline that passed this Tuesday.  Spearheaded by Governor Martin O’Malley, Maryland opted to assume the responsibility of operating a state-run system versus a federally managed  exchange. While Maryland chose to operate their own exchange, states run by more politically conservative legislatures have generally opted to let the federal government operate their state exchanges.  State-run exchanges allow for more tailored programs to address the needs of individual states and those people that reside in them, but put the burden of running the program on the state rather than the federal government.   

Branded as the Maryland Health Connection, the Maryland exchange is expected to provide approximately 150,000 of Maryland’s 770,000 uninsured citizens and save the state $850 million over a 10 year period. Maryland’s exchange is governed by a nine member board composed of both experts and representatives for those who will be covered by the exchanges. Maryland Health Connection gives purchasers the ability to compare approximately 45 plans from six different carriers and determine their eligibility for financial assistance to lessen the monthly cost of having insurance. Maryland even opted to expand their Medicaid coverage. Marylanders living at, or slightly above, the poverty line  will be automatically enrolled in the program, and at no cost.  To enroll an individual, a family or a business, one can go to Maryland Health Connection and follow the prompts as instructed.

While the websites were intended to streamline the process and limit confusion, initial reports are coming in that there are glitches in the websites that have hindered peoples’ attempts to enroll; Maryland’s exchange website experienced ‘technical difficulties’ opening day as reported by the Baltimore Sun. Other obstacles include lack of education regarding the law. One such account was documented by the Huffington Post about a Hagerstown, Maryland man, Joseph Kriner, who didn’t know what he was required to bring to enroll himself and his two granddaughters. Armed with only pictures of his family and the wish to get his granddaughters medical attention, he was told to return with the proper documentation. The story of Mr. Kriner is a somber one, but it brings to light the kind of conditions many Americans find themselves in from day-to-day. These people need help and it is the goal of the Affordable Healthcare Act to make quality healthcare available to those who could otherwise not afford it. While the law has its flaws, and the websites are not currently working optimally, it is difficult to deny that this is indeed a step in the right direction.

In future posts we will be examining Pennsylvania’s federally-run exchange program and gauge the impact the opening of the exchanges has had thus far.

Mackenzie F. Blair, PharmD  ’15

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Interesting. I have enjoyed the National Government's whole shutdown debacle over not the funding of Obamacare, but whether or not employees of the National Government should have to purchase ACA exchanges or be given subsidies to help offset insurance costs. This is a political tactic that costs Gingrich any hope of winning an election in the 1990s, but I do not think that the Democrats will be successful at convincing Americans that it is the evil Republicans that have caused the shutdown this time.

I worry that this plan will ultimately lead to the nationalization of healthcare, inching us closer to a system with no competition to drive quality healthcare and a system in which the government owns that industry too. Anyone who can do math will know that Obamacare ultimately leads the insurance companies in two situations: broke or having to double their premiums. . .causing people to opt into ACA. The end goal is very clear.

Can we not just expand medicaid? Why force people to buy healthcare (think of those that prefer alternative and holistic approaches)? Where in our social contract was the National Government granted the powers in this domain?

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