What Would HB610/SB0493 Do?
HB610, introduced by Delegate Sheila Ruth (District 44B, Baltimore County), and SB0493 introduced by Senator Paul G. Pinksy (District 22, Prince George’s County), would establish the Commission on Universal Healthcare. This commission would develop a plan to implement a statewide universal healthcare program that would provide health benefits to all residents through a single-payer system.
Why Is HB610/SB0493 Necessary?
Since the expansion of Medicaid there has been a significant decrease in the rate of the uninsured and there are major gaps in health care access. Deductibles and out of pocket expenses create barriers for Marylanders who are insured from receiving the health care and treatment they need. Almost 6% of Marylanders are still uninsured, and Marylanders living in or near poverty are almost three times as likely to be uninsured.
Increasing access to health care will lower costs for the state and create better health outcomes for all Marylanders. Without routine access to primary and preventive care, the uninsured are often diagnosed at more advanced stages of disease and, even after being diagnosed, tend to receive less therapeutic care. This further perpetuates health disparities which disproportionately affect communities of color. Unfortunately, when uninsured Marylanders are forced to utilize emergency departments to access primary care services, there is a corresponding increase in costs to the state for uncompensated and undercompensated care.
A single-payer system would enable patients to receive the care they need in the most appropriate venue, control costs for everyone, and ultimately provide better health outcomes for Maryland residents.
What Should Happen Instead?
In order to improve the health outcomes of Maryland residents the General Assembly should set up a Kirwan-like commission for healthcare that would consider plans and analyses done in other states on how to:
1. ensure all Marylanders, regardless of income, assets, health status, citizenship or immigration status, or availability of other health care coverage will have access to quality affordable healthcare;
2. include a benefit package which covers primary & preventive care, chronic care, acute episodic care, reproductive care, including pregnancy, birth control, and abortion services, and hospital services;
3. centralize equity as a goal of the plan in order to reduce health care disparities; and
4. increase health care access in underserved urban and rural settings.