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July 2008

Maryland Begins Implementation of Reforms

On July 7, Governor Martin O’Malley was in Baltimore to celebrate the July 1 effective date of a Maryland Medicaid expansion called the Medical Assistance to Families program under the Working Families and Small Business Health Coverage Act (S. 6).  This legislation expands Medicaid eligibility for parents up to 116 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), and thereby provides previously uninsured Marylanders with access to health care services such as doctor visits, hospital stays, and low-cost or free prescriptions. Maryland, one of several states participating in SCI’s Coverage Institute, attributes the passage and implementation of the legislation to the discussion initiated at the Coverage Institute’s Kick-Off meeting in the fall of 2007.  

The act also creates the Health Insurance Partnership, which is a premium subsidy program for small businesses that will begin enrollment in September. A business will be eligible to receive a subsidy of up to 50 percent of the premium from the Maryland Health Care Commission if the following criteria are met: the employer has between two and nine employees; the employer group’s average wage is below $50,000; and, the employer did not offer health insurance to employees during the previous 12 months. Maryland expects that the Partnership will enroll more than 1,500 businesses in its first year.

This legislation is financed through federal funds, a combination of general funds, a one-time surplus from the state’s high risk pool, and hospital uncompensated care savings.  As a result of the legislation, 100,000 previously uninsured Marylanders will be provided with health insurance coverage.