Latest blog entries - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Tue, 19 Jan 2021 12:51:12 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Tami Howie: Protecting Innovation Protects Patients and Our Economy Innovation is at the heart of Maryland’s economy and the wellbeing of patients in our state. New, groundbreaking cures and treatments save and extend the lives of patients, pushing the bounds of modern medicine, for the benefit of all. Innovative companies are able to leverage Maryland’s combination of technology know-how, business-friendly climate, and highly-educated, highly-skilled workforce to produce these cures and provide hundreds of thousands of Marylanders with well-paying jobs.

However, despite all this, the Maryland General Assembly is currently debating drug pricing legislation that would threaten the innovative potential that makes these benefits possible. New regulations, SB 1023/HB 1194, would create a government-controlled commission with broad leeway to influence drug prices and increase burdensome reporting requirements adding yet another layer of complexity to drug manufacturing.

In so doing, it creates new hoops to jump through for manufacturers to simply go about their business. It risks innovation by undercutting the incentive for the creation of new drugs, that, on average, take 10 years and cost $2.6 billion to produce.

Maryland’s innovation and the companies who contribute to it should be hailed as a success story. Maryland is home to more than 2,500 life sciences companies that contribute nearly $18 billion toward our state’s GDP. Our state has more than 70 federal labs and is the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The biotechnology industry alone employs 34,000 Marylanders. As a result, Maryland is among the country’s leaders in state-wide innovation and entrepreneurship according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Undercutting innovation threatens not only this status, but all of the organizations who benefit from it, and all of the well-paying jobs that they produce.

And in the end, the patients who rely on these innovative medicines – and future cures to come – are the ones who are punished. These patients will see their prices increase as fewer and fewer cures are produced with lessening competition among our state’s best and brightest. In the worst cases, they could see a loss of access to certain drugs all-together, forcing them to cross state lines simply to get the medications they need to get through the day.

Maryland’s General Assembly should reject this legislation, as it will do the exact opposite of what it intends: drive drug prices higher, not lower, all while hurting the innovative spirit that produces critical cures for patients.

The increasing cost of health care is a pressing concern for all Marylanders, and one all health care stakeholders need to address. The Maryland Tech Council supports policies to address these rising costs in ways that are patient-centric and promote access; the problem with SB 1023/HB 1194 is that it does neither.

Rather than attempting a comprehensive approach, working with various stakeholders to determine the true roots of ballooning health care costs, this bill myopically and inaccurately targets drug producers alone. It fails to account for the outsize role that insurers, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and other middlemen play in setting drug prices. It fails to account for the true dynamics of a complicated, interconnected health care system, with a wide array of stakeholders possessing competing interests. 

If elected officials want to honestly and sincerely grapple with health care costs, they should examine approaches that are holistic, ensure access to Maryland patients and protect the innovation economy that helps them live longer, healthier and happier lives. Doing so requires that they reject misguided regulations like SB 1023/HB 1194.

Tami Howie is the Chief Executive Officer of the Maryland Tech Council, a community of more than 600 industry-leading technology firms and organizations

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 28 Mar 2018 12:24:00 -0400
Craft Brewers Legislation in Annapolis Last Friday, General Assembly committees considered dueling bills on “craft brewers.”  On one side was the Task Force empaneled by Comptroller Peter Franchot and his much ballyhooed “Reform The Tap” bill; the other was a proposal by Delegates Davis and Branch to repeal 2017 legislation on craft brewers which has been roundly criticized by Franchot as a knife in the back to the brewing industry despite the fact that it liberalized rules requested by the craft brewers.

The “Gospel” according to Franchot was detailed by Brian Griffiths, the editor-in-chief of Red Maryland in his post on February 10th entitled “Speaker Busch Declares War on Maryland Beer Industry.”  Red Maryland is a group which often peddles “alternative facts,” promotes Republican agenda items and demonizes Democrats, excepting Franchot who is politically aligned with Republican Governor Hogan whom Red Maryland wholeheartedly supports.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have more than a passing knowledge of the Maryland alcohol beverage industry.  From 1980 until my retirement in 2015, I was the lobbyist for the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association which represents the retail segment of the industry:  the bars, taverns, restaurants and package goods stores throughout Maryland, numbering over 7,000 licenses.  I know and have worked with everyone mentioned in Griffiths’ screed and have cordial relations with each of them:  Delegates Davis and Branch, Speaker Busch, Comptroller Franchot and his Chief of Staff, Len Foxwell. 

According to Red Maryland, the evil Democratic cabal, led by Busch, are seeking to destroy the craft brewers.  Busch ‒ before he was Speaker and just one of 3 Delegates representing Annapolis ‒ was the principal reason (along with now Senator Astle) that the Rams Head “microbrewery” came to exist on West Street in Annapolis just about 30 years ago.  It was the first “microbrewery” in Maryland and the law had to be changed to allow Rams Head to both brew and sell its beer at the same location.  Before that time, a company was only allowed to brew (think Coors) or deliver (think large beer truck delivering beer) or sell to the public (think Rams Head before it began its brewing operation or your local liquor store).  Thus, there were 3 tiers and one could not be on 2 tiers at once. 

Rams Head broke the 3 tier rule because Delegate Busch gathered the industry and said there had to be some flexibility shown.  Hence a bill was passed, Rams Head’s microbrewery opened, was a great success and, for all practical purposes, brought West Street back from the dead.  In other words, it was a Busch “cabal” (30 years ago) which was wonderful for the people he represented.

The Rams Head “microbrewery” legislation became a model for all subsequent expansion leading to the present craft brewing industry in Maryland.  Griffiths was probably in grade school when Busch brokered the Rams Head deal and Red Maryland did not exist and would not exist for another decade or two.  

The Rams Head story is one of many where elected representatives have effected changes in the 3 tier system including laws related to Maryland wineries as well as craft brewers so that Maryland is now home to hundreds of local craft brewers and local wineries.

But there is a sure way not to pass a bill and Comptroller Franchot, once a Delegate, knows that too.  Convene a Task Force with the entire industry present, tell a gullible segment (craft breweries) that they were “screwed” by last year’s bill in their favor, promise them the moon, excoriate the rest of the industry and the legislature and, then, with great fanfare hold a press conference and announce the result of the Task Force and its legislative proposals.  Of course, there was no vote of the Task Force and only certain members (craft brewers) were invited to the press conference.

Comptroller Franchot is one able politician.  He knows that his proposals will never be passed.  He also knows that he can demagogue this issue in his re-election campaign this year.  And Chief of Staff Foxwell is the “amen chorus” supporting his boss with a clever quote for Red Maryland saying that the Davis/Branch bill repealing last year’s bill is “a middle finger to the craft beer industry.”

In truth, that bill is a message to Franchot and Foxwell for the way they gave a middle finger to 99% of the industry while pulling the wool over the eyes of the remaining 1%.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Sun, 25 Feb 2018 22:33:51 -0500
Maryland Dentists Serving Marylanders More than 175 years ago, Maryland established the world’s first school of dentistry. The rich history of dental medicine in our state has created the highest standard of oral care that carries into today. It’s why Maryland dentists are committed to maintaining the exceptional care that Marylanders have come to expect from their community dentist.

Maryland dentists are finding solutions that ensure every Marylander receives dental treatment by trained dentists. First and foremost, we are championing comprehensive adult dental Medicaid. Good oral health is imperative to overall body health, and Maryland is one of less than 20 states that doesn’t provide this benefit to its residents. We’ve seen the positive results after a renewed effort by the state legislature to increase funding for children’s dental Medicaid through the Healthy Smiles program. Nearly 69 percent of children who were enrolled in this program at some point over a 320-day period in the last reporting period saw a dentist. This ranks Maryland near the top in the country.

We would like nothing more than to see comprehensive adult dental Medicaid become a reality, just like the Healthy Smiles program. And, a study recently released by the Maryland Dental Action Coalition shows that it may not be as difficult as some may think.

This is especially true when you look at adult dental Medicaid alongside a program being piloted right here in Maryland. Several Maryland dentists created one of the most successful Emergency Department referral programs in the country. The program utilizes Community Dental Health Coordinators (CDHC), or Community Health Workers as they are often referred, to provide patients access to fully trained dentists who can detect problems that other providers are unable to see. The CDHC works with the local hospital emergency department to help ensure appropriate and cost-effective care for low-income patients visiting emergency rooms for tooth pain and helps coordinate a continuum of care for the patient to avoid future ER visits.

This way, we can treat the actual problem instead of simply managing the pain with medication, like opioids. And, with opioid abuse devouring whole communities, the more we can keep people out of a scenario where they could be prescribed more pain killers, the better. The work done in Western Maryland has reduced emergency department dental visits by a whopping 26 percent, saving millions of dollars.

As presidents of two major dental associations in Maryland representing dentists across the board, we’ve seen first-hand the good work of our member dentists and their commitment to all residents of this state.

It’s why we are greatly concerned about the legislation and the misinformation put forward by out-of-state special interest groups about the need for yet another mid-level provider, or advanced practice dental hygienist, in our state. These types of practitioners may be working in a state like Alaska where tribal nations often have little or no access to dentists. That clearly isn’t the case in Maryland. A two-tiered system of care where some of the most complex cases are handled by the least trained people is not what Marylanders want or deserve.

Maryland dentists are already finding solutions to provide the care that every Marylander deserves and expects in their dental care, instead of creating an entirely new tier of care. We’re betting on Marylanders to find the solutions to access and affordability. And, your community dentists are leading the effort.

Tami Dulan, DDS
President, Maryland Dental Society

Vanessa Benavent, DDS
President, Maryland State Dental Association


info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 21 Feb 2018 00:25:16 -0500
Karen Barbour: Why we support a vibrant downtown Columbia As the founders of Alliance for Hispanic Commercial Contractors (AHCC), we know that over 6% of Howard County residents identify as Hispanic, and that the Hispanic population is growing every year. The AHCC is dedicated in promoting the growth, prosperity and participation of Hispanic Commercial Contractors in commercial and government procurement contracts through education, training and guidance, especially here in the Mid-Atlantic region.  

We are a central part of the 21st Century economy and intend to play an integral role in Maryland’s growth in the years to come.  That growth will require a strong commitment to creating the communities that will attract businesses and citizens in the changing economy. As such, we believe the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) package proposed under Howard County Bill CB56-2016 is crucial to creating the Downtown Columbia envisioned in the Downtown Columbia Plan and urge the Howard County Council to pass this legislation during the November 7, 2016 legislative session. Furthermore, because we believe in the principles of affordable housing and expanded housing opportunities for all residents, we also support the Joint Recommendations on affordable housing. 

The TIF presents to AHCC a creative solution to fuel the economic engine of Downtown Columbia.  We want a vibrant town center, well-paying jobs, and growth opportunities in the heart of central Maryland. AHCC sees the new construction enabled by the TIF as a driver for its member base that will allow our Hispanic commercial contractors and their families to become first-time stakeholders in building a “new” community.  Therefore, the AHCC supports the TIF proposal and Joint Recommendations on affordable housing and urges the Council to support this package as well. 

AHCC sees Howard County as the launch pad for its success, just as Howard Hughes sees this county as a launch pad for Maryland’s new economic engine.  The new Downtown envisioned by this legislative package will create the vibrancy needed to attract our millennials, small business innovators, and notable large businesses that, like Howard Hughes Development, will provide true concern and outreach to heal the socio-economic disparity present in the Hispanic community.  We want a future where Hispanic contractors are building and promoting the community they live in.  This package does just that.

Karen Barbour is Founder and President of the Alliance for Hispanic Commercial Contractors.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 25 Oct 2016 21:30:33 -0400
MEDICAID 50 Years Old and Still Going Strong This week Congressman Elijah Cummings keynoted an event celebrating the fifty years of Medicaid in Maryland. Medicaid launched in Maryland in July of 1966. In 1966, Maryland Medicaid provided coverage for over 113,000 Marylanders. Today, approximately 1.2 million Marylanders receive health insurance coverage under Medicaid. 

The federal law that created Medicaid, The Social Security Amendments of 1965, was signed into law July 30th 1966 by President Lyndon Johnson. That legislation provided government-sponsored health insurance coverage for seniors, low-income children, caretaker relatives, the blind, and individuals with disabilities. Maryland was actually ahead of the Federal Government as the first state to adopt a medical assistance program administered outside of a welfare agency. For nearly 20 years prior to Medicaid’s passage, Maryland’s State-funded medical assistance program helped poor and elderly Marylanders gain access to health care. That Maryland fund would later be replaced by Medicaid after the federal legislation. 

Medicaid is our health safety network providing access to care to over a million Marylanders. MedChi works closely with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to protect and improve Medicaid. In order for Medicaid to remain strong and effective, MedChi thinks focus on three areas that require continued vigilance. These areas include ensuring that Medicaid patients have access to a physician, Healthchoice is funded and regulated properly, and that Maryland continues the tradition of innovation in delivering healthcare services. 

All Maryland Medicaid patients should have access to a physician. This need was seriously compromised when Medicaid reimbursement rates were reduced to 13% below Medicare reimbursement for all physicians for Evaluation and Management (E&M) codes. At the request of MedChi, 7% points have been returned to the payment over the last two years. Maryland physicians are now asking Governor Hogan and General Assembly leaders to finish the job, continue their good work, and restore Medicaid reimbursement to parity with Medicare. The question that we must ask is should people of lesser means receive the same benefit as seniors? Medicaid payment cuts to physician reimbursement create significant barriers to patient access and ultimately increases the cost of care as people seek treatment in more expensive locations like emergency rooms. The tremendous increase in Medicaid enrollment that has occurred with the implementation of federal health care reform makes retention of parity reimbursement essential. Maryland’s ability to maintain an adequate physician network and ensure patient access to necessary services is at risk if action isn’t taken. So the next question is, will Maryland’s 

leaders take up the challenge and put Medicaid in shape to meet the needs of Maryland citizens? 

As Medicaid continues to grow and expand, we need to make sure Healthchoice is properly funded and regulated. Healthchoice is the Maryland Medicaid mandatory managed care program that was approved by the General Assembly in 1997. HealthChoice features inclusive eligibility, statewide mandatory enrollment, risk-based purchasing, capitated rates, and service carve-outs, including mental health services. Roughly 80 percent of all Maryland Medicaid participants are enrolled in a HealthChoice Managed Care Organization. 

In order to make sure this major part of the Medicaid system works, we must continue a tradition of proper funding and regulatory protections for patients, physicians and the public health of Maryland. Unlike the private insurance market the Maryland Managed Care Organizations actually have competition as currently Maryland contracts with 8 MCOs to manage services under its HealthChoice. That competition is a positive for patients in Maryland. 

Finally, Maryland should continue its tradition of innovation and leadership in the area of Medicaid. One project that is currently being considered by DHMH displays that desire to continue to improve. The Maryland Medicaid Department is currently working on a possible dual eligible Accountable Care Organization (ACO) program. A duel eligible Medicaid patient is receiving both Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The focus on dual eligible was based on the consensus that was achieved through an Advisory Council and multiple workgroups that full duals should be a top priority as a population with substantial health and social support needs who are largely unmanaged in the current delivery system. One barrier to innovation is a long out dated technology needs and data management systems. Once these improvements are made, the Maryland Medicaid Department will be able to consider even more improvements. 

As we look back at fifty years of innovation and service, it would be an extreme oversight to not mention the amazing staff at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene who serve the citizens of Maryland and work to provide access to care to so many. Some of these dedicated public servants have worked to improve healthcare for the most vulnerable for decades, and should be honored and appreciated for their work. Their dedication is why I believe we will see continued positive improvements as we work together to protect and improve health care for all Marylanders. 

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 20 Oct 2016 22:52:43 -0400