Health care interests spent the most lobbying Annapolis

Health care interests representing hospitals, providers and insurers continue to spend the most to influence Maryland legislators and state officials, paying out $4.5 million to lobby this past session, according to figures compiled by Common Cause from State Ethics Commission filings.

The result is not a surprise given the state’s heavy role in both regulating and paying for health care, which makes up over $12 billion (31%) of the total state budget, including federal funds.

Committee gets a dose of drug overdose treatment

The Senate Finance Committee is considering HB 516, a bill that will expand a program that allows ordinary people to learn how to administer Naloxone, an emergency drug administered to reduce fatalities from overdose. The Overdose Response Program has been in place for a year but doctors are hesitant to prescribe the drug, worried they could be sued if something goes wrong. Meanwhile, deaths from overdoses of heroin and fentanyl are growing.

Proposed birth injury fund pits hospitals against trial lawyers

A bill to create a no-fault birth injury fund in Maryland pits two traditional opponents — hospitals and the trial lawyers who sue them for malpractice.

Sponsored by Sen. Catherine Pugh and 22 delegates in House, including three doctors, SB585 and HB553 would set up a fund paid for by the hospitals that would finance the living and care expenses of any baby suffering a neurological injury from actions at the hospitals.

Health programs endangered by declining federal support

As the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene discussed Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2% across-the-board budget cuts on Friday, Sen. Adelaide Eckardt of the Senate Budget and Tax committee questioned the future of 68 mental health program facilities DHMH has created the past two years through aid provided by the Affordable Care Act.

Eckardt, a psychiatric nurse from the Eastern Shore, described DHMHs’ growth of mental health programs in the past two years as “pretty remarkable,” but voiced concerns that if the department doesn’t locate state funds to cover reducing federal funds, Maryland will begin backtracking.

Maryland Health Connection illustration

Analysis: State in no hurry to file suit over health exchange, faces disclosure of improper actions

State officials responsible for overseeing construction of the health exchange platform faced two frightful choices under the contract to produce the website in the months preceding the Oct. 1, 2013 ”go live” date:

Terminate Noridian, and fail to bring any health exchange platform to market; or
Keep Noridian on the job while violating major contract provisions designed to maintain equilibrium between payments to Noridian, and the quality and completeness of their work.

The state decided on the latter.

Board of Public Works: Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Comptroller Peter Franchot

Md. awards $16 billion, 10-year contract for health insurance

Top state officials on Wednesday approved spending $16 billion over the next 10 years on health insurance for over 200,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents. One of the largest contracts ever granted, the three-member Board of Public Works approved it at a meeting dominated by discussion of the positives and negatives of health care delivery in Maryland, including serious patient care problems at a state hospital in Hagerstown.

Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein answers reporters questions.

Health Secretary Sharfstein had too much on his plate

It was easy to feel sorry for state Secretary of Health & Mental Hygiene Joshua Sharfstein during the last couple of years. When it was announced he was leaving the department late last month, the only surprise was that his departure wasn’t immediate and that it hadn’t happened sooner. With the failure of the Maryland Health Care Exchange, his department already had too much dysfunction on its plate.