Lawmakers Question Retroactive Health Care Bill


ANNAPOLIS (Jan. 25, 2014)—During a question and answer session on the House floor Friday, Delegate Peter Hammen, D-Baltimore, admitted the state’s plan for retroactive health care coverage is “not a perfect system,” as lawmakers questioned various aspects of the bill.

A chief concern among delegates was the lack of an official number of individuals eligible for the proposed retroactive coverage. The emergency legislation would give individuals another opportunity to enroll in health care under the Maryland Health Insurance Plans if they missed the deadline.

As of Friday, officials say that number could stretch from as little as a few hundred citizens to as many as 5,000.

Hammen, who serves as Chairman of the Health and Government Operations Committee, argued that despite this, it is time to “step on the accelerator.”

“We want a fully functional exchange so the citizens of Maryland can take full advantage of it,” he said.

Hammen cited cases where individuals incurred significant expenses, and through no fault of their own, were unable to get insurance or were misled about their coverage due to technical glitches.

For individuals who attempted to sign up, but later found they lacked coverage due to problems with the state’s health exchange website, there should be records of the attempts that will qualify those individuals for retroactive coverage, Hammen said.

That will not always be the case, however. Hammen says there is a possibility some individuals will not have records, which would require citizens to sign an affidavit before claiming retroactive coverage.

Skeptics believe this will introduce the possibility for what one delegate called “gaming the system.”

With retroactive coverage, eligible individuals could theoretically sign up to receive aid only to drop their plan a few months later.

Other lawmakers questioned the implications for hospitals and insurance companies citing credit-rating firm Moody’s downgrade of the U.S. health insurance sector from stable to negative on Thursday.

Speaker of the House Michael Busch said the House would vote on the bill as soon as Tuesday. The Senate passed the measure, 38-8, on Jan. 21.

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