Democrats running for Maryland governor pledging to support a state individual mandate for health care

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The seven major Democrats running for Maryland governor have all signed a pledge to support a plan to shore up Obamacare if they are elected, health care advocates said Wednesday.

Representatives from the campaigns are expected to announce their support for the plan at an 11 a.m. event Wednesday at the Episcopal Diocesan Center in Baltimore, according to Vincent DeMarco, president of Health Care for All.

The pledge supports what advocates call a “health insurance down payment” program designed to preserve the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act.

The federal government will stop enforcing the federal individual mandate next year, leading many to fear that healthy people will stop signing up for health insurance and insurance companies will be forced to raise premiums to cover care for the sickest people.

The “down payment” program has two parts: a state-level health insurance mandate that would penalize people on their state taxes for not buying health insurance, and a method for applying those penalities to help low-income people purchase coverage.

Representatives from all campaigns confirmed the candidates have signed the pledge to back the program if elected.

Maryland lawmakers considered approving such a program during the General Assembly session this year but instead passed a commission to study the idea. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has not taken a public position on it, but has been critical of the federal individual mandate. The state proposal would be the first in the nation if it were to be enacted.

The seven major candidates in the June 26 Democratic primary are: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, former Montgomery County Council member Valerie Ervin, former NAACP chief Ben Jealous, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno, Baltimore lawyer Jim Shea, tech entrepreneur and author Alec Ross, and Krish Vignarajah, a former policy aide to Michelle Obama.

ecox@baltsun.com

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