March 6, 2023
This legislative session, our Health & Benefits Equity Project has been advocating for legislation that, if passed, would help the state of Maryland reduce economic and health inequities and strengthen safety net services for low-income individuals and families. While there are many important bills that we are supporting, we need your help to move these 5 key bills down to the House and Senate floor for a vote before Crossover Day on March 20th! Please contact committee members and your legislators and urge them to keep these bills STRONG and vote YES without any weakening amendments.
More than 3,800 households receiving the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) and the Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) benefits have had over $2.5 million in benefits stolen due to Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card skimming theft. Skimming theft leaves the victims, including families with young children, seniors and individuals with disabilities, unable to afford food, rent and utilities, driving them deeper into poverty. Marylanders need immediate relief from this crisis and SB 2 / HB 502 would provide that relief by requiring the Department of Human Services (DHS) to reimburse stolen benefits and invest in security enhancements for EBT cards to prevent theft.
SB 2 / HB 502 were heard in the Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees on February 21st and 23rd, respectively.
In 2021, the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission released a study reporting that not only were 60% of people who should have receive free care reported as bad debt and pursued for collection by hospitals, but hospitals also collected roughly $60 million in 2017 and then again in 2018 from patients who were eligible for free care and thus, should not have been charged. The PJC and other medical debt advocates worked to successfully pass HB 694 last year, which required Maryland’s hospitals to refund patients who were wrongfully charged and paid their bills between 2017-2021. SB 404 / HB 333 is an implementation bill that creates the process for Maryland’s hospitals along with DHS and the Office of the Comptroller to identify and refund these patients in a way that protects patients’ privacy and safety.
The Medical Bill Reimbursement Act was heard in the Senate Finance and House Health and Government Operations committees on February 23rd and 28th, respectively.
Transgender Marylanders are navigating a tiered healthcare system where certain gender affirming care that would be covered in private insurance isn’t covered for Medicaid beneficiaries. The lack of access to comprehensive gender-affirming care leaves low-income transgender Marylanders vulnerable not only to discrimination in various areas of life, but also to physical and mental health complications. HB 283 / SB 460 would require Maryland Medicaid to expand the medically necessary gender-affirming treatment that it covers, improving health outcomes for low-income transgender Marylanders.
This is the Trans Health Equity Act’s second year of introduction and it was heard in the House Health and Government Operations and Senate Finance committees on February 14th and 28th, respectively.
Current federal and state laws prevent certain categories of immigrants from participating in the health insurance marketplace has the effect of gatekeeping healthcare from over 275,000 undocumented immigrants residing in Maryland and places them at great risk of chronic illness and other health complications. SB 365 / HB 588 attempts to correct this inequity by expanding access to the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange to all Marylanders who would otherwise be eligible but for immigration status.
This is the Access to Care Act’s second year of introduction and it was heard on February 15th and 23rd in the House Health and Government Operations and Senate Finance committees, respectively.
Federal and state law require certain state departments, agencies, and programs to take reasonable steps to provide equal access to public services for individuals with limited English proficiency. HB 1144 would strengthen Maryland’s language access law by requiring state departments, agencies and programs to designate a language access compliance coordinator, establish a language access policy and plan, and take other actions to ensure reasonable access to the entity’s programs and activities for individuals with limited English proficiency. It also requires the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights to provide oversight, monitoring, investigation, and enforcement of certain language access provisions.
HB 1144 will be heard on March 8th at 1 pm in the House Health and Government Operations Committee. You can submit supporting testimony for the bill TODAY between 8 am – 3 pm by following these steps:
2. Submit your written testimony or sign up for oral testimony online → VIDEO GUIDE. (After uploading your PDF file, don’t forget to click “Save” at the top of the page!)