Md. Introducing Health Insurance Exchange Plans

Thursday, 29 Dec 2011 03:41 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration will introduce legislation to create exchanges allowing the state’s residents to buy affordable insurance under Obamacare rules. The exchanges will open insurance for people who aren’t eligible for coverage through their employers or Medicaid, reports The Baltimore Sun.
Maryland plans to create two exchanges: one for small groups and another for individual, because merging the two could cause too-high premiums. About 170,000 in Maryland expected to enroll during the first year of reform.
Maryland Health Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein, who chairs the health exchange board, said nearly all insurance companies in the state would be required to participate in the exchanges.
A similar exchange plan in California failed, the board’s report said, noting it became a pool for high-risk patients. The Maryland board hopes to prevent that problem by requiring anyone who offers catastrophic coverage outside the exchange to also offer it within the state program.
“The essence of insurance is spreading risk,” Sharfstein said. “The idea is people who are healthy pay so that when your number is called and you get sick you get covered. If it is just the sick people who are seeking insurance, the costs will go up.”
Maryland’s exchanges would also offer dental insurance, which federal law leaves up to states to decide. The board also wants a provision allowing a person to continue care, even if circumstances change and he or she has to change how they are insured. .
State governments must certify exchanged by Jan. 1, 2013, and Sharfstein said the law will offer “significant value to people in Maryland.”
MarylandHouseofDelegates minority leader Anthony J. O'Donnell questions the rush to push the exchange legislation forward, because the issue is still being legally debated.
"I'm concerned we're going to set up this entire structure that may or may not have any effect," O'Donnell said. "If we spend a lot of money setting this up and find out it's unconstitutional, then it is wasted money."

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