Health care reform task force passes interim plan
A task force charged with overseeing sweeping federal health care reform in Maryland approved Monday an interim plan that outlines steps to prepare for the changes it will bring.
The plan sets goals such as containing costs while improving quality, expanding the health care work force to meet demands of new patients and making sure reform actually leads to the better health of Maryland residents.
The 12-member Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council voted unanimously to approve the plan. Three members were absent.
Most facets of reform will not take place until 2004, although some other parts will take place a little earlier.
For instance, the state was awarded $85 million in federal funds earlier this month to help immediately insure people with pre-existing conditions. The state is using the money to increase its high-risk pool, which now insures about 20,000 people. The state will start accepting applications for the high-risk pool in August, and people will be able to enroll in September.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said the interim plan helps to set the frame work of what the state will need to do to implement more sweeping elements of reform.
“Because of the enormity of this, we think it is important to spend time on the up-front work to set up a foundation,” Brown said.
Brown co-chairs the coordinating council with John M. Colmers, secretary of state of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The committee also announced chairs of working groups that will come up with concrete ways to implement reform.
For example, one group will look at how to create health care exchanges where people can shop for coverage with subsidies. The state is also looking at creating pilot programs to test out new ways of caring for patients.
The council’s interim report will be officially released Monday. The report will include a cost analysis outlining how much money Maryland taxpayers will save under health care reform. The report will also include an overview of the federal legislation, key points the state needs to address and potential grants and funding opportunities. Some of the suggestions in the report were taken from more than 160 ideas from the public submitted on a state website and during past hearings.
A final report is due to Gov. Martin O’Malley Jan. 1.
State officials have said that they are in better shape than other steps because they already have initiatives for the uninsured, such as its high-risk pool.