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Maryland not doing enough to make health insurance affordable

We agree with the contention expressed in the recent Baltimore Sun editorial — that the goal of steps taken at the federal level "was to increase the ranks of the uninsured" (“What would happen if Maryland’s ACA marketplace collapsed and what we could do about it,” May 8). The profound impact of these actions was most recently seen in the massive rate hike requested by CareFirst for its 2019 insurance plans. Assuming Maryland's proposed reinsurance program is in place in time, then those rates will come down. However, that increase will be on top of rates that many found unaffordable last year.

We certainly applaud the work of those who are pursuing a reinsurance program for Maryland and others who are proposing creative ideas to address the loss of the individual mandate. However, these alone are not enough, and we are pleased that the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission will be studying a number of additional options to bring down the cost of health insurance. For example, Consumer Health First has advanced the concept of a Medicaid buy-in. Such a program could provide financial relief to those who do not qualify for any financial assistance of the type that would benefit those participating in the "down payment plan."

Last week, we heard from an individual who is currently paying 30 percent of the family's income for health insurance — far above the 9.5 percent upper level called for in the Affordable Care Act. This is unacceptable and must be addressed. A Medicaid buy-in would not only provide more affordable options but would also offer far greater choice in Maryland's 13 counties which are served by only one insurance carrier — CareFirst. Another study by the commission will examine the pros and cons of providing additional financial assistance to consumers. That could raise the eligibility floor for a subsidy above the current 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

It is essential that we study these and, in fact, all options that can help us reach the goal of equitable access for all Marylanders to truly affordable and comprehensive health insurance.

Beth Sammis, Potomac

The writer is president of Consumer Health First.

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