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What's Up Magazine

The Issue De Jour

Feb 10, 2012 05:40PM ● By Anonymous
There are numerous fundamental problems to solve within our state – from the economy and jobs to quality of life to the environment – and none should be overlooked. Yet one issue that I believe needs continuous attention is health care. At the end of the day it does not matter who we are or where we come from – health care matters to all of us.

In reality, quality of life at its core is dependent on a person’s health. How can someone focus on going to school, finding a job or caring for their family if they are suffering from some disease or virus? And what if such ailments could have been avoided with proper care and diagnosis? Preventing such unnecessary conditions is one of the foundations behind the whole health care movement. How is insurance paid for? How do we buy it? How is it delivered? Those questions are part of the push for the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange (Exchange) is an offshoot of a federal law that requires all states to have some kind of Exchange system in place by 2014. If passed, Maryland would become of the first states to actually implement or install such an Exchange system. But let me back up a little. Most Marylanders have no idea what the Health Benefit Exchange is – or even of its existence – which is why I felt it important to talk about. In simple terms, the Exchange would allow individuals and small businesses the opportunity to compare and select any of a variety of insurance plans within the Exchange including HMOs, PPOs and fee-for-service plans. The intention is to provide cheaper opportunities with stronger consumer protections.

The proposed Exchange system is currently up for consideration in the General Assembly this Session: House Bill 443/Senate Bill 238 “Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Act of 2012” Essential to the development of this legislation was a thorough multi stakeholder legislative report – with recommendations – completed in December 2011. The Exchange is something I have kept in my attention span. No matter how much we approve of a concept, it is always important to make sure the final implementation meets its intent. And in the case of health care – and specifically the Exchange – many questions still need to be addressed. Decision-makers need to be aware of potential risks that doctors and others in the health care profession may experience as many uninsured individuals suddenly come into the system. Will there be enough resources to provide the needed care? The insured expect quality health care, but will they get that care? Reducing costs translates into not always needing certain services such as CAT Scans – but will the demand for such services decrease as well? Even if proper health care is provided, how serious should we take doctors’ fears at getting sued for not delivering the level of care expected?

Hopefully we can get some answers to health care issues – including the Exchange - in the coming weeks and months. I will let you know what I find out. Will you let us know what you learn?

References:
Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council web site:
http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/healthreform/SitePages/Home.aspx

Maryland Health Benefit Exchange web site:
http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/healthreform/exchange/SitePages/Home.aspx

Health Care Reform Innovations web site:
http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/innovations/SitePages/Home.aspx