Hogan Announces Lower 2019 Insurance Premiums

 By Brooks DuBose

Capital News Service


ANNAPOLIS, Maryland -- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Friday announced a reduction in next year’s insurance premium rates for individual healthcare plans in the state.


The two health insurance providers in the state’s Maryland Health Benefit Exchange — which operates the marketplace consumers use to purchase healthcare under the Affordable Care Act — Kaiser Permanente and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, will offer an average of about a 13 percent reduction in premiums across the board, the governor said. The new rates will take effect on Jan. 1.


The announcement comes after the federal government in August approved the state’s request for a waiver to establish a reinsurance program to stabilize the insurance market and prevent rate spikes.


“Rather than huge increases in health insurance rates, we are instead delivering significantly and dramatically lower rates for Marylanders,” Hogan said. “For the first time since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, all individual insurance rates in Maryland will go down instead of up.”


Prior to the waiver’s approval, insurance premiums were expected to increase dramatically next year for both HMO and PPO healthcare plans. CareFirst’s PPO rate was expected to increase by more than 90 percent. It will now decrease by 11 percent, the governor said.


CareFirst’s HMO plan, which covers more than half of the nearly 200,000 Marylanders with health insurance plans purchased in the individual market as of June 30, will see a 17 percent decrease.


Kaiser had proposed a rate increase of almost 40 percent. Instead their rates will drop by about 7 percent.


“As a result of these rates, the health insurance market in Maryland will finally have the chance to become more competitive and dynamic,” Hogan said, adding the reinsurance program will make health care more affordable and increase competition by coaxing more insurers into the market.


The reinsurance program is a temporary fix, however. The waiver runs through 2020 but could last through 2023, according to the waiver application — and a more permanent solution must be enacted by the federal government to ensure rates do not increase down the line, said Maryland Health Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer.


“Most of the rules regarding the Affordable Care Act are embedded in federal law. Very little authority is given to the states,” Redmer said. “What we really need — and what we’ve been advocating for years — is for Congress to put aside those partisan differences and come up with common sense solutions or give us more authority to make changes here in the states.”


Redmer declined to speculate whether insurance rates would increase after the waiver expires without a long-term solution in place.


“Short term, our health insurance rates are (going to be) much more competitive than they were this year,” Redmer said, adding that the lower rates will add more consumers to the insurance market making it healthier overall.



Numerous Maryland laws went into effect Oct. 1
By Capital News Service staff

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — The following legislation has been approved by the Maryland General Assembly and goes into effect on Oct. 1. The University of Maryland’s Capital News Service has grouped these laws generally by subject matter, and include bill numbers in parentheses. They include:


Ban on fracking: After a two-year moratorium, the state will prohibit the hydraulic fracturing of a well for the production of oil or natural gas. (HB1325)
Antibiotics for livestock: In response to worries about antibiotic effectiveness, Maryland has become the second state to ban the routine administration of antibiotics to cattle, swine and poultry. (SB422/HB602)  - By Julie Depenbrock
Nursing homes: Requires the owner of a nursing home to immediately, under certain circumstances, appoint a non-licensed person to serve as the interim nursing home administrator. (HB145)
AIDS/HIV: Repeals an education program on AIDS for those convicted of drug or sex-related crimes. (HB445/SB185) Requires state health department to establish requirements for prenatal HIV testing. (HB518)
ADD: The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will be required to identify up-to-date, evidence-based, written information that relates to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD) and post printable information on the department’s website that may be accessed by healthcare practitioners engaged in treating the disorder. (HB184) -- By Georgia Slater
Plastic labeling: Prohibits the sale of plastic products labeled as compostable, decomposable or biodegradable, unless the product meets certain standards. (HB1349)
Mercury: Prohibits, with penalties to be determined by the Department of the Environment, a marketer from knowingly selling electric switches, relays and gas valve switches that contain mercury. (SB0713/HB0504) -- By Alex Mann
Drug prices: Manufacturers and wholesale distributors are prohibited from “price gouging” in the sale of an “essential generic drug,” and the state attorney general may sue companies that do not comply. Drug companies sued the state over the summer and a decision is pending. (SB0415/HB0631)
Crab meat: Repeals outdated state requirements to match newer federal guidelines regarding the storage of crab meat. (SB128/HB524) --By Tomi Adeboyejo

Parental consent
:  Authorizes parents or guardians to apply, on behalf of minors, for certified inpatient or intensive outpatient alcohol or drug abuse treatment programs. (SB0433/HB1093)
Support during recovery: Repeals previous law that subjected those convicted of felonies involving controlled dangerous substance, who apply for food stamps and temporary cash assistance, to testing, treatment and sanction requirements. (SB0853/HB0860) --By Alex Mann

Public Integrity Act
: The state’s first ethics bill passed in over a decade mandates that lawmakers disclose any conflicts of interest and limits their advocacy for private businesses. (HB879)  --By Julie Depenbrock

Marijuana expungement
: A person has to file a petition for expungement if the person was convicted of marijuana possession. (SB949/HB1362)
Justice Reinvestment Act: Seeks to reduce Maryland’s prison population by requiring the Division of Parole and Probation to conduct risk assessments on inmates and aims to reduce recidivism with plans for inmates’ rehabilitation. Reduces incarceration for certain nonviolent crimes. Increases penalties for gang offenses. (SB1005/HB1312)
Homicides while impaired: Imprisonment increases from three to five years for people who kill others while operating a car or boat under the influence of a controlled substance. (SB229/HB635)
Police and human trafficking: Requires specific police training about victims of human trafficking, including services, support and appropriate treatment. (HB1279/SB220)
Amber’s Law: Permits victims of domestic abuse to request that the offender use electronic monitoring devices to track their location and provide alerts. Allows victims to request protections. (HB1163/SB0976)
Home invasion: Classifies home invasion as a crime of violence. (HB906)
Solicitation to commit murder or arson: Increases the statute of limitations to three years for solicitation — urging, advising or inciting another person — to commit murder or arson in the first or second degree. (HB653/SB387) --By Chris Miller

Rape kits
: Requires a hospital or child advocacy center to give rape kits to police within 30 days of the victim’s exam. Prohibits police from destroying or disposing of sexual assault evidence within 20 years of collection. (SB349/HB255)
Physical resistance: Evidence of physical resistance by a victim is not required to prove a sexual crime happened. (SB217/HB429)
Sexual offenses classification: Sexual offenses in the first and second degree are reclassified as rape in the first and second degree. (SB944/HB647)
Sex offender: A registered sex offender will have at least 21 days, instead of three, to notify local police before leaving to work in a foreign country. (HB521) --By Chris Miller

Sponsored by Delegate C. T. Wilson, a survivor, extends the deadline for victims of child sexual abuse to file a civil lawsuit against alleged attackers from age 25 to age 38. (HB642/SB505). Alters the definition of “abuse” as the intended physical or mental injury of a child by a person who exercises circumstantial authority over the child. (HB1263/SB996) --By Jess Feldman

Reporting animal cruelty: Requires veterinarians who have reason to believe that an animal has been subjected to cruelty or violence report the activity to police. (HB1463) 
Animal care: Owners of six or more unspayed female dogs over the age of 6 months or who sell dogs from six or more litters in a year must obtain a kennel license. (HB334/SB573) --By Chris Miller

E-cigarette licensing: Creates a standard for licensing the manufacture, warehousing and sale of e-cigarettes and their accessories. (SB 119/HB 523) 
Food desert small loans: Authorizes the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide small loans ($50,000 or less) for food desert projects, which aim to increase access to affordable, fresh food in low-income neighborhoods. (HB 1492)
Accidental personal injury compensation: The maximum fine for an employer who fails to report an accidental personal injury within the required time increases from $50 to $500; the penalty will only apply in cases when the employer knowingly fails to report an injury. (SB 867/HB 1476) --By CJ Mitchell

‘Coal rolling’: Prohibits diesel-powered vehicles from releasing visible clouds of smoke, or exhaust emissions, onto another person or vehicle with a $500 maximum fine. “Coal rolling” is the practice of removing emission-controlling parts of the engine to emit extra smoke, oftentimes for entertainment or anti-environmental purposes. (HB11)
Lane use: New legislation will allow tow trucks to drive in high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, regardless of the number of passengers, to respond to a service call. (HB889)
Drivers will be allowed to pass on paved shoulders if those ahead are making a left turn. (HB1456) And all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles will be prohibited from driving on various portions of the state highway unless exempted and the driver is older than 16. (SB979)
School crossing guards: School crossing guards will have new authority to direct non-school vehicles around school property in addition to directing vehicles and pedestrians on a highway. (HB1301/SB0078) --By Josh Schmidt

School whistleblower: Prohibits an employer from either taking or refusing to take retaliatory action against a public school employee because the employee discloses or threatens to disclose a policy that might violate a certain law, rule or regulation. (HB1145)
Anonymous tips: Authorizes a county board of education to create an anonymous two-way electronic tip program for a student, parent, guardian, close adult relative of a student, or a school staff member to report acts of bullying, harassment or intimidation.  (HB669)
Recovery programs: Requires the Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland to establish standards and guidelines for addiction recovery programs to be implemented at collegiate institutions. (HB950)
School safety: Authorizes the Maryland Center for School Safety to make grants for security-related projects to schools and childcare centers at risk of hate crimes or attacks. (SB1191)  --By Georgia Slater

The following items were approved in the General Assembly, and took effect either immediately or over the summer. --By Julie Depenbrock

Rape kits: Provides funding for Maryland’s rape crisis centers and creates a committee to develop policy to ensure the appropriate collection, storage and testing of rape kits. (HB1163/SB0734)
HOPE Act: In response to the heroin and opioid crisis, this emergency bill -- dubbed the HOPE Act -- increased access to naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug. The bill also mandated hospitals set protocol for discharging patients treated for substance abuse, and required in-school education on opioid addiction. (HB1329)
More Jobs for Marylanders Act: Granted tax breaks for the creation of new manufacturing jobs in economically depressed areas like the Eastern Shore, western Maryland, and Baltimore. (SB317/HB394)
More learning, less testing: School testing in the state was limited to 24 hours per year at the elementary and middle school level and 26 hours in high school -- making up just 2.2 percent of the school year. (SB452/HB461)
Trump reaction: Soon after President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, the General Assembly passed the Maryland Defense Act, empowering the state’s attorney general to sue the U.S. government without Hogan’s permission. (SJ5) The Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission was created to monitor any federal changes that might affect health care. (SB571/HB909) Maryland also became the first state to promise funding for Planned Parenthood if cut by the Trump administration. (SB1081/HB1083)
Saving energy: In an effort to cut energy consumption 2 percent each year, Maryland’s five largest utilities were charged with providing energy-efficient services. (SB184/HB514)
Oysters and cownose rays: Watermen are forbidden access to oyster sanctuaries until a report on the state of the oyster population is completed. (HB924) Additionally, a ban on cownose ray fishing contests is in effect for the next two years, until the Department of Natural Resources finishes its fishery management plan. (SB268/HB211)
Prince George’s Medical Center: Maryland is providing $100 million for operating grants to the new hospital over the next decade. (SB1198)

Protect Our Schools Act
: Vetoed by the governor but overridden by the legislature. As a response to federal education legislation, provides guidance for identifying and reforming failing schools. (SB871/HB978) --By Julie Depenbrock
State-of-the-State (Video)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (CNS) — Gov. Larry Hogan delivered his third state-of-the-state address, saying much has been accomplished over the past couple of years but there’s more work yet to be done.

By: Caroline Cummings

Maryland Democrats ready to play defense against Trump (Video)

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland (CNS)--Surrounded by State House Democrats, Maryland Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch introduced multiple pieces of legislation designed to protect the state against the effects of President Donald Trump's executive orders and new regulations.

By: George Gerbo