Brochin wants General Assembly special session on health insurance subsidies

Brochin wants General Assembly special session on health insurance subsidies
State Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat from Towson, wants the General Assembly to deal with President Donald Trump's decision not to fund subsidies for insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act. ((Baltimore Sun file))

A state senator is calling for a special session of the Maryland General Assembly to deal with President Donald Trump’s decision not to fund subsidies for individual health insurance plans sold under the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Jim Brochin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, says the state should pass a law agreeing to pay for the subsidies, and sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan requesting a one-day special session to consider such a bill. Thus far, the idea has not gained traction in Annapolis.


With federal subsidies ending, health insurance companies that sell plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges have been approved to increase the rates they charge customers. State regulators approved significant increases this week for CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield and Kaiser Permanente plans that are expected to enroll about 96,000 Marylanders.

“These are the people who can least afford to get hit,” Brochin said.

Brochin, an insurance broker who recently entered the race for Baltimore County executive, said he thinks that if the state promises to fund the subsidies, it will help stabilize the prices for insurance.

The price tag for Brochin’s proposal could be large: Maryland insurers receive between $5 million and just under $8 million a month in cost-sharing subsidies, according to an analyst with the state Department of Legislative Services. That’s $60 million to $96 million per year.

Brochin said the state could pay for it by cutting the budget elsewhere.

Amelia Chasse, a spokeswoman for the Republican governor, said Friday that Hogan is willing to talk with the senator about the issue. She said the governor continues to call on Congress to “develop common-sense solutions” for both this issue of rising premiums as well as long-term healthcare problems.

“The Maryland Insurance Administration worked diligently to minimize the impact of recent federal policy changes to Marylanders, and has put safeguards in place to ensure that customers are reimbursed in the event that these federal subsidies are restored,” she said.

General Assembly leaders said they’d entertain the idea of a special session if Hogan was on board. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House of Delegates Speaker Michael E. Busch issued statements decrying the Republican president’s actions on health insurance.

“If Governor Hogan is willing to buck against his president and either convene a special session or work in any way to propose a solution, we would happy to work with him and the speaker to find a solution to this crisis,” said Miller, a Calvert County Democrat.

Busch likewise challenged Hogan to address the administration’s action.

“I have been closely following the damage the Trump Administration is doing to health care access for Marylanders,” the Anne Arundel County Democrat said in a statement. “If Governor Hogan wants a special session to correct President Trump’s assault on health care … we are more than happy to help find a solution for the citizens of Maryland.”