Lt. Governor Brown, Rep. Sarbanes Announce Launch of Maryland's Federal High-Risk Insurance Pool Program
Coverage begins today, expected to cover 3,500 more Marylanders over three years
BALTIMORE, Md. (September 1, 2010) – This afternoon at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown and Congressman John Sarbanes were joined by Johns Hopkins Community Physicians President Dr. Steven Kravet, Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) Acting Executive Director Tate Showers, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and Chief Executive Officer Chet Burrell, health providers and professionals and newly insured residents to announce the launch of the new federal high-risk pool program. The program will allow uninsured Marylanders with a preexisting condition to gain health insurance coverage.
As a result of an agreement made in July between MHIP and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “MHIP Federal” received $85 million in federal funds and began accepting applications for insurance through the federal pool in August. The approved applicants begin receiving health insurance coverage today and during the announcement were presented with ceremonial ID cards.
“Today marks an important milestone in Maryland’s pursuit to expand health care coverage to more of our neighbors, including those with preexisting conditions. MHIP Federal is a national model and among the first high-risk pools in the nation to begin providing coverage for previously uninsured Americans,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Because of reforms already enacted by Governor O’Malley and our strong partnerships with the federal government and the health community, we expect federal health reform to save Maryland taxpayers $829 million over ten years and cut the number of uninsured Marylanders in half. Today’s announcement will allow us to offer health insurance to more of those Marylanders who have been shown the door for far too long.”
On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), as amended by the Health Care and Education Recovery Act of 2010. PPACA requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a temporary high-risk pool program to provide health insurance coverage to uninsured individuals with a preexisting condition. The Secretary is authorized to carry out the program directly or through contracts with states or other eligible entities.
“There are thousands of people in Maryland who have been denied health insurance coverage because of a pre-existing condition,” said Congressman John Sarbanes. “Now, the health reform law will ensure that these individuals have access to affordable, quality coverage.”
Following the enactment of PPACA, the Maryland General Assembly passed House Bill 1564, which authorizes the Board of Directors for the Maryland Health Insurance Plan (MHIP) to administer the federal high-risk pool program for Maryland. Governor O’Malley signed the emergency bill into law on April 13, 2010 and sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services designating MHIP as the entity that would implement the federal high-risk pool program for Maryland.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Maryland residents who have not been able to get insurance because of a medical condition,” said Tate Showers, Acting Director of the Maryland MHIP Program. “MHIP Federal members will receive comprehensive medical and prescription drug benefits for a very reasonable cost.”
“Consistent with our founding principles, Johns Hopkins Medicine is committed to providing high quality care to all patients regardless of their socioeconomic background. Despite our best efforts, many patients historically do not seek care until it is too late,” said Steven J. Kravet, M.D., M.B.A., F.A.C.P. ,President, Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. “The new high risk insurance pool is viewed as a huge benefit that will encourage patients to access care earlier, which should result in better outcomes and lower costs in the long run.”
MHIP started accepting applications in early August and enrolling individuals in the program with an effective date of September 1, 2010. The temporary federal high-risk pool program will remain in effect until the end of 2013, when it will be replaced by an insurance exchange established under PPACA. Maryland expects to receive approximately $85 million in federal funding for the federal high-risk pool program during the life of the program, and its implementation should allow MHIP to provide coverage to approximately 3,500 additional members.
Since entering into agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, MHIP staff members have been working to implement MHIP Federal. Coverage under MHIP Federal will be provided through a $1,500 high deductible plan. Members of MHIP Federal will have a comprehensive benefit package similar to the benefit package currently provided to MHIP members.
“One of health reform’s key goals is to expand access to health coverage, and that is a major part of our mission as a not-for-profit insurer,” said Chet Burrell, President and CEO of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. “We’ve been proud to work with the state since 2007 as administrator of the Maryland Health Insurance Plan and we look forward to continuing that service as we move into this new era.”
By law, premiums for MHIP Federal may not exceed what is charged for comparable coverage in the commercial insurance market. As a result, premiums for MHIP Federal are reasonable and affordable, and the program will fill a gap in the current system by providing coverage for individuals whose income is not low enough to qualify for MHIP+, but are not able to afford MHIP. Implementation of MHIP Federal should allow MHIP to provide coverage to approximately 3,500 additional members.
To be eligible for coverage under the federal high-risk pool program, an individual must:
- Be a citizen or national of the United States or lawfully present in the United States;
- Be a resident of Maryland;
- Not have had health insurance for a continuous six-month period of time prior to the date of application to the federal high-risk pool program;
- Not be eligible for certain other health insurance coverage; and
- Provide certain evidence of a preexisting condition.
Congressman Sarbanes is a member of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over health care policy. Throughout the debate on health care reform, Congressman Sarbanes worked to include provisions that would expand access to affordable health care, ensure an adequate number of doctors and nurses to support our new health system, and bring a new emphasis to primary and preventive care so that we can catch health problems before patients become very sick.
Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown administration’s efforts on a range of issues, including health care. Brown led this year’s effort to pass the Medicaid False Claims Act and establish Patient Centered Medical Homes. He chairs the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council, co-chairs the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council and has championed efforts to expand access to mental and behavioral health services for Maryland’s veterans.
For more information about the MHIP Federal program, visit www.marylandhealthinsuranceplan.net or call 888-444-9016.