Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council
By Bonnie S. Birkel, CRNP, MPH
Director, Center for Maternal and Child Health
Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
On March 24, 2010, the day after President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, Governor Martin O’Malley created the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council with the purpose of advising the administration on policies and procedures to implement federal health reform as efficiently and effectively as possible. The Council’s focus was keeping Maryland among the leading states in expanding quality, affordable health care while reducing waste and controlling costs.
The Council sought stakeholder input through both public meetings and inclusion of membership on one of six Council Work Groups: Health Insurance Exchanges; Entry to Coverage; Outreach and Education; Public Health, Safety and Special Populations; Health Care Workforce; and Health Care Delivery System. In a final report to the Governor, the Council outlined 16 recommendations on Maryland actions needed to undertake reform implementation.
Frances Phillips, the Deputy Secretary for Public Health within the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who co-chaired the Public Health, Safety and Special Populations Work Group, and oversees administrations concerned with family and community health, including all Title V MCH program activities, notes that “the needs of children and families were always at the forefront of all Council and Work Group activities.”
The collaboration among various agencies in Maryland on health care reform is based on a model Governor O’Malley established in 2008, in which he made reducing infant mortality by 10 percent by 2012 one of 15 strategic goals for the newly created Governor’s Delivery Unit (GDU). The GDU is an innovative performance management tool to track progress toward public sector goals. Engaging with the Governor’s Delivery Unit has already lead to an unprecedented collaborative effort among state agencies and with private partners to improve the health of women prior to pregnancy, increase early entry into prenatal care, and establish standardized post-partum discharge protocols.
New ACA funding also presents opportunities for Maryland to strengthen insurance coverage expand access to care, make coverage more affordable, and promote cost control, quality and prevention. Maryland has received $1 million in new federal funds to improve outcomes for families who reside in at risk communities under the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program. The Maryland Title V-MCH program, the lead state agency for the program, works in coordination with the Children’s Cabinet and the Governor’s Office for Children as well as other state and local agencies in developing a comprehensive state plan for the implementation of this program. The Maryland MCH program is also administering the new Personal Responsibility and Education Program (PREP) which will also receive approximately $1 million in new federal funds once the state plan is approved. Deputy Secretary Phillips has noted that both of the new funding initiatives will further bolster the efforts to reduce infant mortality.