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02.13.2019 / Press Release

Maryland Down Payment Health Insurance Bill Offers Innovative Template Congress Can Follow to Expand Health Care to America’s Uninsured

Legislation Has Broad Support from Advocates and Lawmakers

Washington, D.C. – Today, the Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition announced an innovative “down payment” health insurance plan that would cover an estimated 130,000 uninsured Marylanders who qualify for zero-premium health insurance but are not enrolled. Organizations such as the Maryland Hospital Association, the American Heart Association, and MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society have endorsed the bill, which has more than 80 co-sponsors in the General Assembly. The lead sponsors are Sen. Brian Feldman (Senate Bill 802) and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (House Bill 814).

Stan Dorn, Director of the National Center for Coverage Innovation at Families USA, and who was instrumental in developing the proposal, explains the plan will offer a more-enrollment focused approach than the ACA’s individual mandate, which federal tax legislation effectively repealed in 2017. Polling suggests that Maryland’s innovative strategy could have significantly more public appeal than the ACA’s original enforcement system.

“The down payment plan structure protects and expands the ability of Marylanders to secure high-quality, affordable health insurance coverage. As uninsured residents file state tax returns, they can avoid an insurance responsibility payment by agreeing to obtain health insurance and to keep it through the end of the year,” Dorn said. This would be a tremendous boon for Maryland; but it also shows how other states and Congress can help the 11 million Americans who are uninsured but who qualify for zero-premium health insurance. As more people enroll, average costs in state insurance markets drop, making premiums more affordable.”

“This is an exceptionally smart and innovative approach that helps America’s families obtain high-quality, affordable care,” said Frederick Isasi, Families USA’s executive director. “And we think the plan offers a model on which other states and Congress can build in extending health insurance to everyone in our nation — children, older adults, and families.”

Barb Gruder, a Maryland resident and health care advocate hopes the bill is passed easily.

“This is exactly the type of legislation we need in America. I should not have to wake every morning wondering if I will be able to breathe,” Gruder said, who has chronic asthma.

The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the down payment bill (SB 802) on Wednesday, March 6 at 1:00 p.m.