- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Southern Maryland health officials raised convincing young people to buy health insurance as their greatest challenge in successfully implementing federal health reform during a roundtable meeting Monday with U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in Waldorf.
The meeting came days after state insurance officials approved final rates for coverage that will be sold on the Maryland Health Connection, the online exchange created under the 2010 reform law, known as the Affordable Care Act, or colloquially as Obamacare.
The rates are among the lowest proposed or approved across the country, and significantly less than insurers had originally requested, but could result in some residents paying as much as 25 percent more for their premiums.
Maryland has been recognized as one of the more proactive states in creating its health exchange — the ACA requires states to either set up an exchange or have the federal government do it for them.
Most of the ACA’s major provisions take effect in January, including a mandate that citizens without health insurance either purchase coverage or pay a penalty. Individuals can begin purchasing insurance on the state’s exchange in October.
“The 10 percent who don’t have insurance and don’t know how to get it, they are going to rely on all of us in this room,” Hoyer said to 25 or so representatives from county health departments, insurance providers and nonprofits seated around a table at the Charles County Waldorf West Branch Library.
Hoyer said the greatest challenge is getting young adults, “the invincibles,” to understand the importance of health insurance, even if they are in good health.
“The success of this is largely going to be from marketing efforts,” said Mike Shaw, executive director of Calvert Healthcare Solutions, a nonprofit seeking to expand health care access.
Cardin said he believed young people would be eager to purchase insurance to avoid becoming a financial burden to their families should they be injured in an accident.
“It’s also the law,” Cardin said. “Most people like to comply with the law. Not everyone, but most do.”
Hoyer said House Republicans plan this week to hold a vote to repeal the law for the 40th time, and that some have threatened to shut down the government if the law is not defunded.
“It’s not going to be repealed,” Cardin said matter-of-factly, noting that several provisions have already gone into effect, including those expanding coverage to children, allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26 and reducing the Medicare Part D prescription drug “doughnut” hole.
About 180,000 of the state’s roughly 800,000 uninsured residents are expected to enroll in private health insurance in the first year, while an additional 100,000 are projected to enroll in Medicaid.
It is estimated that three of every four people who buy insurance through the exchange will be eligible for tax credits that, in Maryland, will total $7.5 billion over the next five years.
The law requires all plans offered on exchanges across the country to cover outpatient and inpatient care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, lab testing, radiology and prescription medications, as well as provide free preventative care while capping out-of-pocket expense, according to a release from Hoyer’s office. Insurance companies cannot deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, nor place lifetime or annual dollar limits on their plans.