Affordable Health Coverage: A Good Thing for Maryland Children, Families
As the Health Policy Director at Advocates for Children & Youth and as a member of the steering committee for the Maryland Women’s Coalition for Health Care Reform, I can say that the implementation process has at times been challenging. This is particularly true in Maryland where we are so far out in front of other states. However, it is well worth the effort knowing that Maryland’s children and families will have better access to affordable quality healthcare.
Today, young adults can stay on their parents’ health plan until they turn 26; preventive care is now available with no co-pays or deductibles; children can no longer be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions; and insurance companies have to spend 80% of every dollar on health care services—not on administration or marketing.
When I look at these advances, it is hard to believe that these provisions were not already in effect. Times are changing and definitely for the better.
In 2014, former foster youth will be able to access Medicaid benefits until they reach age 26 and the ban on pre-existing conditions will apply to adults and there will be no annual or lifetime limits for children or adults. These advances are truly a step in the right direction.
Here in Maryland, we are working hard to develop a “no wrong door” process for accessing health coverage. We realize that we need to keep it simple and make the process fit the lifestyles of our Maryland families. And we are well on our way.
Individuals and families will be able to use the Maryland Health Connection –the consumer marketplace for purchasing health insurance plans—to enroll in Medicaid or the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP). Families can also compare and access commercial coverage. These plans will be comprehensive and will include well-child visits, hospital visits, maternity care, emergency room care, prescription drugs, and preventive services.
We know that families may find this process overwhelming. Therefore, there will be in- person, call center and on-line resources available to help individuals and families evaluate and compare comprehensive insurance plans. The plan information will be provided in plain language with no fine print—that in and of itself is a big win.
As we celebrate the third anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, we are reminded of the advances made to help Maryland’s children and families become healthier. The anniversary also confirms that we need to keep pushing through the January 2014 implementation date until all Maryland children and families are able to access the health services they need.