An overview of MACo’s advocacy on health and human services legislation in the 2020 General Assembly.
Each county in Maryland has a local health department that provides essential public health services to residents. They are also county agencies provide human or citizen services for children, families, and persons with special needs. MACo advocates actively for policies that continue to confront the opioid crisis and to support county health and social services programs.
This year, for the first time in since the Civil War, the General Assembly closed session early on March 18, due to precautionary social distancing measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, many bills did not have hearings or did not move forward due to time constraints to meet the new deadline. For more information on Maryland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic visit MACo’s COVID-19 Resource Page.
Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Tracking Database.
Emergency Service Transporters Reimbursements
MACo supported three bills that all attempted to modernize reimbursements for services provided by emergency service transporters to better meet growing demands and needs for services. Counties supported these bills because the costs of emergency service transports and treatments are exceedingly borne by county and volunteer providers without adequate increases in State support.
- HB 779 (CF SB 777) – Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Emergency Service Transporters and Emergency Medical Services Providers – Reimbursement
- HB 1485 – Maryland Medical Assistance Program – Emergency Service Transporters – Reimbursement
- HB 1496 – Medical Assistance Program – Emergency Service Transporters – Reimbursement for Transportation and Medical Services
Each bill proposed a slightly different way to increase reimbursements for emergency service transporters. Unfortunately, none of the bills moved forward in the House or Senate committees following their public hearings.
MACo supported with amendments legislation that strives to coordinate state and local health policy efforts by creating a Maryland Council on Health in All Policies to examine the health of the residents of the state, ways state and local governments could collaborate to implement policies to improve the health of the state, and a number of additional factors that impact the health of the state. However, counties argued that the bill failed to incorporate any local perspectives and requested an amendment to add four MACo-appointed members to the Council. While the sponsors were open to adding local perspectives the bill, Maryland Council on Health in All Policies – Establishment, did not advance in either House or Senate committees following public hearings.
MACo opposed legislation seeking to establish a framework for licensing fees and renewals for behavioral health programs. Counties raised concerns that the unintended consequences of a licensing scheme would be to place a substantial strain on the locally run programs that serve low-income populations and risk cuts or reductions in service offerings in order to meet the fee requirements. Behavioral Health Programs – Licensing and Fees had a public hearing in the Senate Finance committee but did not advance.
MACo supported legislation that would establish a fund and task force to address the pressing and costly issue of dialysis patient transport. Unfortunately, the sponsor withdrew the bill, Dialysis Patient Transportation Fund and Task Force to Study the Dialysis Patient
Transportation Fund, at the public hearing and expressed intentions to propose a workgroup instead.
Prescriptions Drugs & the Opioid Epidemic
MACo supported legislation that sought to strengthen local health departments’ ability to help identify and deter prescription drug abuse and diversion by authorizing the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to send data to local health departments about the distribution or abuse of monitored prescription drugs. This move would allow local health officers to share vital information and best practices with identified prescribers, and increase awareness and improve intervention efforts in cases of patients who may be doctor shopping. Unfortunately, Health – General – Prescription Drug Monitoring Program – County Health Officer did not move out of the House committee following its public hearing.
MACo supported with amendments legislation that boosts funding for local programs to help senior residents stay in their homes as they age, maintaining their independence and security in a cost-efficient way. Counties expressed concerns over limitations on the use of the proposed $1 million annual grants, requiring 10% of annual appropriations to be used to support senior villages. Unfortunately, MACo’s amendment to remove the spending restrictions was not adopted. Instead, the Department of Aging – Grants for Aging-in-Place Programs – Funding passed through the House and Senate with a reduced annual appropriation of $100,000 and a requirement that 20% of funds go to supporting senior villages, and was sent to the Governor for his signature.