Lt. Governor Brown Announces 2012 Legislative Priorities
Brown to Lead Legislation to Create Jobs through Public-Private Partnerships, Address Health Disparities, and Implement Health Care Reform
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (January 27, 2012) – Today, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced that he will be leading the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to pass a series of measures to create jobs by encouraging public-private partnerships for infrastructure projects, address disparities in health care and health outcomes in underserved communities, and continue Maryland’s leadership in implementing health care reform during the 2012 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly. The Lt. Governor will work closely with members of the Senate and House of Delegates, as well as stakeholders from across the state, to build consensus and advance these three critical legislative priorities.
As part of the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s focus on job creation, Lt. Governor Brown will lead efforts to pass An Act Concerning Public-Private Partnerships (SB358/HB576), legislation that will streamline and improve the State’s framework for public-private partnerships (P3s) for infrastructure projects. Specifically, the legislation will improve the State’s definition of a P3, strengthen and shorten the legislative review process, and lay the foundation for an improved review and coordination process within the Executive Branch.
“Creating jobs and putting Marylanders back to work is our highest priority, and investing in infrastructure projects is one of the most effective ways to spur job creation and encourage economic growth,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “In these difficult economic times, we need to take an innovative approach and look at all options for funding our infrastructure needs. Well-structured public-private partnerships can create jobs by encouraging private investment in our public infrastructure projects. Our legislation will make the P3 process in our state more predictable, streamlined, transparent and attractive to private investment while ensuring strong workforce protections and maintaining control of State assets.”
The P3 legislation includes language promoting Maryland’s current policy objectives, such as prevailing and livable wage, green buildings, environmental protection, and minority and women-owned business participation. The measure stems from a series of recommendations developed by the Joint Legislative and Executive Commission on Oversight of Public-Private Partnerships, chaired by Lt. Governor Brown.
This session, Lt. Governor Brown will also continue his leadership on efforts to improve the health of Maryland’s citizens by championing two pieces of legislation intended to enhance the quality of care, reduce health care costs and expand access to care to more Marylanders.
To address health disparities among Maryland’s racial groups and geographic areas, Lt. Governor Brown will work to enact the Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Reduction Act of 2012 (SB 234/HB 439), which will create a pilot program for a series of geographically based Health Enterprise Zones (HEZs) in underserved communities.
Despite numerous positive measures, such as has having the second highest rate of primary care providers per capita and one of the ten lowest rates of smoking, Maryland ranks 35th in infectious diseases, 34th in health outcomes, and 33rd regarding geographic health disparities. A 2006 report found that blacks in Maryland are nearly twice as likely be hospitalized for such treatable conditions as asthma, hypertension and heart failure, costing Medicare an additional $26 million. Nationally, a 2009 report estimated that between 2003 and 2006, nearly $230 billion could have been saved in direct medical care costs if racial and ethnic health disparities did not exist.
“Addressing health disparities in Maryland’s underserved communities is both a moral and financial imperative,” said Lt. Governor Brown. “Innovation in health care is critical for driving down costs and improving the health of our communities. Our ground-breaking Health Enterprise Zones program will take the incentive-based, community-level approach that has proven effective in the economic development field and apply it to health care to help address disparities in outcomes and care that continue to persist throughout our state.”
Under the proposed legislation, community-based organizations or local health departments would submit proposals for HEZs to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Community Health Resources Commission outlining the targeted communities, as well as the tools they would use to expand and improve access to care, improve health and reduce disparities. Practitioners working with the community organization in an approved HEZ would be eligible for a menu of incentives such as loan assistance repayment, income tax credits, priority for the receipt of state funding available for electronic health records, and preference to enter the Maryland Patient Centered Medical Home Program. The applying organization would also be eligible for state grants to further these important goals. The Governor’s Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Proposal includes $4 million to fund the HEZ pilot program.
The health disparities legislation is based on recommendations developed by the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council Health Disparities Workgroup, launched by Lt. Governor Brown last summer and chaired by University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean Dr. E. Albert Reece.
The Lt. Governor will also lead efforts this session to pass the Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 (SB 238/HB 443), the next step for health care reform implementation in Maryland. This year’s legislation continues the State’s efforts to meet the January 1, 2014 deadline required by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) to establish a health benefit exchange that makes available qualified health plans to qualified individuals and employers. Following last session’s legislation creating the framework for the exchange, the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Board worked with a broad range of experts and stakeholders to develop a series of policy recommendations. These included four advisory committees with stakeholders from the health insurance industry, health care providers and associations; community members, advocates, community-based organizations; academia; business owners; unions; local government officials; and consultants.
Based on the recommendations established through this open and collaborative process, the Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012 will support the successful operation of the Exchange and allow the Exchange to meet the State’s goals by facilitating the purchase and sale of qualified health and dental plans in the individual insurance market, and by assisting qualified employers in enrolling their employees in qualified health and dental plans in the small group market. Under the proposal, the existing individual and small group markets will continue to operate outside of the Exchange, which will supplement the current markets.
“Maryland has become a national leader in implementing health care reform because we understand that these measures will reduce costs, increase access, and improve the quality of health care for all Marylanders. Our latest legislation will help ensure that Maryland’s Exchange accomplishes the goal of providing a transparent marketplace which offers individuals and small businesses high-quality, affordable private health plans that fit their needs at competitive prices,” said Lt. Governor Brown.
Lt. Governor Brown leads the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s efforts to expand and improve health care, support economic development, help victims of domestic violence, increase access to higher education, and provide Veterans with better services and resources. In past years, Brown has worked with the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation creating BRAC Zones and the BRAC Higher Education Fund, as well as public safety legislation that took guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. Last year, Brown successfully led the Administration’s efforts to pass legislation to establish the framework for Maryland’s Health Benefit Exchange, give the Maryland Insurance Commissioner the authority to enforce consumer protections in the ACA, and make intentional child neglect a criminal act in Maryland.