Re-prioritizing Public Health: Counties Call for Increase in Local Health Funds

On Wednesday, Michael Sanderson and Natasha Mehu testified in front of the Budget and Taxation Committee in support of SB 645 Local Health Services Funding – Modifications.

 One of MACO’s key priorities during the 2019 legislative session has been to advocate to re-prioritize public health by reviving local health department funding, which is currently 23% lower than 2008 funding levels. This bill not only restores critical funding that is necessary for public health services in Maryland’s local communities to thrive, but it also updates the formula to recognize the growing costs of medical care provided by these departments.

From the Blog Post Revive Local Health Funding Today for a Better Tomorrow:

What is the Problem?
Core Funding is still historically significantly lower than it once was due to state fiscal constraints, cost containment measures, and new interpretations of inflationary increases. Funding reached a high of $67 million in FY 2008. It is only $51 million in FY 19. That is 23% below where it was 10 years ago. Funding has remained relatively stagnant while costs continue to increase.

How Does SB 645 / HB 1082 Help?

SB 645 / HB 1082 re-bases the Core Funding formula to around $80 million in FY 2021 — approximate amount of what Core funding should be in today’s dollars had it not been cut in the recession. It then ensures that the total amount of funding never falls below that new base. The bill would also change the inflationary index within the statutory Core Funding formula from a general cost-of-living adjustment (based on the generic Consumer Price Index) to a more relevant measure for medical costs.

From the MACo Testimony:

SB 645 would rebase the Core Funding formula to $80,439,548 in FY 2021. This approximately amounts to what Core funding should be in today’s dollars had it not been cut in the recession. It then ensures that the total amount of funding never falls below that new base. The bill would also change the inflationary index within the statutory Core Funding formula from a general cost-of-living adjustment (based on the generic Consumer Price Index) to a more relevant measure for medical costs. As medical inflation has historically exceeded general inflation, this change would better reflect and account for increased costs of medical care the LHDs provide as well as ensure that the buying power of state core funding remains as strong as intended. The changes begin in fiscal year 2021, and therefore avoid any effect on the current year’s budget.

LHDs provide a range of important public health programs including preventative care, immunizations, substance and mental health counseling, communicable disease prevention, and health education. Over the years, dramatic and lasting funding reductions have threatened their capacity to provide these crucial services and have forced them to do more with increasingly fewer resources. SB 645 restores Core Funding and strengthens the formula moving forward, helping to ensure LHDs can effectively and efficiently continue to provide their valuable public health services to community members.

For more on 2019 MACo legislation, visit the Legislative Database.

Related coverage from Conduit Street:

Revive Local Health Funding Today for a Better Tomorrow

Blog Series: Local Health Departments – Part 1

Blog Series: Local Health Departments – Part 2: Services, Structure and Staffing, and Funding

Blog Series: Local Health Departments – Part 3: History of Local Health Services and Core Funding

Blog Series: Local Health Departments – Part 4: Core Funding Formula and Recent Challenges

Blog Series: Local Health Departments – Part 5: Core Funding Formula and its Shortcomings

Blog Series: Local Health Departments Part 6: Conclusions and Recommendations

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