This week marks the midpoint of the 90-day 2018 General Assembly legislative session. A flurry of legislation has come to Annapolis, including items related to hospitals' top three priorities: the hospital "sick" tax, behavioral health, and medical liability.
Gov. Hogan has included the agreed-upon $25 million spend-down of the hospital sick tax in his proposed budget, a measure that will help reduce the financial burden on hospital patients. MHA is working closely with the House and Senate to protect the governor's reduction and look for opportunities to increase that amount. If the $25 million remains, the sick tax would be reduced for the coming fiscal year to $339 million.
Several bills have been proposed to enhance Maryland's behavioral health care delivery system. MHA has been drawing from the recommendations in our Roadmap to an Essential, Comprehensive System of Behavioral Health Care for Marylanders to support legislation that will help hospitals ensure that patients with mental health and substance use disorders get the care they need. This includes measures like increasing reimbursement for the community-based behavioral health workforce and expanding crisis services.
On medical liability, MHA has testified in opposition to proposals that would raise the cap on non-economic damages, weaken the standard used for punitive damages, and alter the standard of contributory negligence. The Senate hearing on the No-Fault Birth Injury Fund was held Wednesday and support grows each year. Our efforts to draw attention to this proposal have generated bipartisan Senate support, with 13 co-sponsors, in addition to bipartisan support in the House, with that chamber's hearing scheduled in the coming weeks.
As the federal government, in the wake of President Trump's budget proposal, considers changes to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid coverage, the Maryland legislature is considering a series of proposals to shore up the state's health coverage gains. In all forums, our key message to legislators is that broad-based coverage is paramount to our work to make communities healthier and succeed under the All-Payer Model, but that the search for resources to fund that coverage should not jeopardize the state's unique health care model and the improvements in quality and cost-savings achieved over the past four-plus years.
This is a fast-paced session with many moving parts and the highlights here only scratch the surface of the many bills for which MHA advocates on behalf of its members. We hope you'll continue to stay informed of all of MHA's activity in Annapolis by checking our weekly legislative dashboard here.