U.S. Senators Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin, along with Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown (all D-Md.) announced today that Maryland has received a $123 million federal Level Two Establishment Grant to continue the development and implementation of the state-based health benefit exchange.
The exchange will become operational by October 2013 under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), providing expanded access to quality, affordable health care to more Marylanders.
"Maryland is an innovation state, and I am committed to ensuring we are at the forefront of putting health care reform into action," Senator Mikulski said. "The Affordable Care Act is already improving the day-to-day lives of Marylanders, and these federal funds will help ensure we continue to lead the nation in establishing a state based health insurance exchange. By promoting competition in the health insurance marketplace we will help families achieve long-term health security. The Maryland Health Connection will give families a one-stop shop to get the information they need to compare health plans and get the high quality and comprehensive health care they deserve at a price they can afford."
"With today's announcement, the state of Maryland takes a giant leap toward securing universal coverage for its citizens. The Maryland Health Connection will enable individuals, families and small businesses to compare insurance options, make the best choices to meet their needs, and secure tax credits to help pay their premiums. I am proud of the work our state has done with the resources provided by the Affordable Care Act," said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin.
"From the moment the President signed the Affordable Care Act into law, Maryland has moved forward aggressively to build our exchange in order to expand access to affordable health care options, and today's grant is further recognition of our national leadership," said Lt. Governor Brown, who leads the O'Malley-Brown Administration's health care reform efforts. "With the help of these funds, the name Maryland Health Connection will become synonymous with a one-stop, transparent marketplace where individuals and small businesses can compare rates, benefits and quality among private insurance plans to find one that best suits their needs. Thank you to Maryland's Congressional Delegation, President Obama, Secretary Sebelius and all of our federal partners for making this critical grant possible and helping us establish our exchange without using State dollars."
"We continue to support states as they move forward building an Exchange that works for them," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Thanks to the health care law, Americans will have more health insurance choices and the ability to compare insurance plans."
"I'm pleased that today's grant announcement allows Maryland to continue its leadership in developing this critical component of the Affordable Care Act, the health benefits exchange," stated Congressman Steny Hoyer. "From new patient protections to lower health care costs, millions of Marylanders are already benefitting from the Affordable Care Act, and the new Maryland Health Connection will provide even more residents with a transparent marketplace to access quality, affordable health care coverage. I commend Governor O'Malley and Lt. Governor Brown for leading efforts to implement the Affordable Care Act in our state and their commitment to building an exchange that will make health care more affordable and accessible for all Marylanders."
"I am proud to join Lt. Governor Brown in celebrating the announcement of this federal grant to support our health benefit exchange, The Maryland Health Connection," said Congressman Elijah Cummings. "The Maryland Health Connection will play a critical role in broadening health care options for many of Maryland's residents. Through this exchange, Marylanders will have access to alternative insurance options in a competitive marketplace, empowering them to play an active role in protecting the health of themselves and their families. Maryland was one of the first states to implement its health care exchange, and I am certain we will continue to lead the way in improving health care access for all."
Also announced today was the name for the marketplace where individuals and small businesses will shop and enroll for plans and programs. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, in partnership with Medicaid and the Maryland Department of Human Resources, will operate the Maryland Health Connection (www.MarylandHealthConnection.gov) as the online portal where individuals, families and small businesses will compare health insurance options, determine eligibility for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and enroll in qualified health plans or public programs, such as Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) beginning in October 2013 (for coverage effective January 2014). Marylanders can sign up for updates from Maryland Health Connection by visiting MarylandHealthConnection.gov or texting "CONNECTED" to 69302.
The Level Two Establishment Grant announced today will be used by the State to support the continued development of policies, administration and operations, as well as consumer outreach, assistance and education. A substantial portion of the grant funding will support the IT system being developed in collaboration with the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (Medicaid) and Department of Human Resources to ensure that all federal and state functions are operational, including eligibility determinations and enrollment, as well as the transfers of information necessary between individuals, employers and plan issuers as well as state and federal agencies.
"The Maryland Health Connection will help hundreds of thousands of Maryland families and small businesses access affordable health care," said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and chair of the Board of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange. "Today's announcement reflects the significant progress Maryland is making, in collaboration with the federal government, towards the effective implementation of the Affordable Care Act."
Enrollment through Maryland Health Connection is scheduled to begin in October 2013, with insurance coverage beginning January 1, 2014. As many as 150,000 individuals are expected to enroll in qualified health plans (QHPs) during the first year, increasing to approximately 275,000 by 2020. Medicaid enrollment is expected to increase by 101,000 in the first year, growing to 187,275 by 2020 according to a recent study conducted by The Hilltop Institute.
In July, Governor O'Malley formally declared Maryland among the states that will be seeking certification from the federal government in January 2013 as a state-based exchange, demonstrating a commitment to achieve operational readiness.
The Level Two Establishment Grant is the fourth federal grant Maryland has received to date to support the implementation of a state-based exchange through the ACA, totaling $157 million. Prior to this award, Maryland has received $34.4 million in grants for research, planning, information technology development and implementation, including a Planning Grant for $1 million for initial research and planning; a $6.2 Early Innovator Grant to design and implement an IT model for the State that could also serve as a model for other states; and a $27.7 million Level One Establishment Grant for policy development, planning, technology and operational infrastructure, and the IT platform.
The Maryland Health Connection will now become the consumer-facing brand recognized by individuals and small businesses statewide where they will expect to shop for health coverage, compare benefits, determine eligibility for tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, and ultimately enroll for coverage.
Beginning in early 2013, an integrated marketing and communications campaign will launch to educate individuals and small businesses about the availability of health insurance options through Maryland Health Connection and guide them through the various access points made available to coverage, including the online marketplace and in-person assistance through various channels.
"The Maryland Health Connection will bring affordable health insurance coverage within reach of all Marylanders, creating a transparent marketplace for consumers and small businesses-- providing them with information they can trust and understand," said Rebecca Pearce. "We continue to work with stakeholders throughout the state to develop an exchange that builds on the strong systems already in place while developing new paths to expand access to health care coverage."