Each year, G.S. Proctor & Associates compiles for our clients a detailed report analyzing key developments in the legislative process affecting the issues and industries that matter most in the state of Maryland.
In the coming days, we’ll share the details of the report in a series of posts focused on the various areas of interest. For those interested in seeing the complete report now, you can download a PDF here.
Healthcare remains a prominent issue this Legislative Session and Maryland policymakers made several decisions not only on major healthcare issues, but healthcare concerns that COVID-19 brought to light, such as home care provider shortages, long-term care effects on employer/ employees and the increased role that pharmacists and pharmacies played in the current healthcare climate.
The pandemic caused significant fluctuations in long-term and home care services, plaguing staff shortages in the direct care workforce among nursing homes and home care staff. In this year’s session, legislators considered two bills that would help solve this crisis.
The first, Senate Bill 600/House Bill 544, legislation that, if enacted, would empower policymakers with the information they need to ensure that home care jobs are decent jobs that workers want to do without putting any administrative burden on home care agencies.
The second bill, Senate Bill 863/ House Bill 981, would have given a raise to both home care agencies and home care workers. Unfortunately, neither bill appealed to the Maryland General Assembly to help solve the homecare workforce shortages. Meeting the needs of caretakers due to COVID-19 related illnesses, a statewide paid family and medical leave program received final legislative approval this year.
Senate Bill 275, the Time to Care Act, will offer Marylanders 12 weeks of partially paid family leave each year to care for themselves or a loved one after a serious health issue and up to 24 weeks of paid leave for new parents. This insurance program would be funded by employers and workers, with the exact contribution from each to be determined from a cost analysis completed by the Department of Labor once every two years.
Governor Hogan vetoed The Time to Care Act stating, “if the General Assembly had passed a family leave program that defined small business as those with fewer than 50 employees (the bill indicates 15 employees), he would have been “more inclined to support it.” He also expressed that the bill was supported by “no actuarial analysis, no viable plan for implementation, and leaves the smallest of small businesses vulnerable to insurmountable regulatory burdens.” The Maryland General Assembly overrode the Governor’s veto allowing the bill to be law.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacists have been integral to the delivery of public health services including, but not limited to, administering immunizations, administering COVID-19 therapies, telehealth management of chronic diseases and COVID-19 testing. Because they are known to be the most trusted and accessible of the healthcare professions, HB1219/SB661 was introduced in this session to recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers, allowing them to receive reimbursement for the extended services they provide.
There are thousands of pharmacists in Maryland who are ready to provide valuable healthcare services to areas with limited access to care. By realigning financial incentives and reimbursing pharmacists for their services similar to other healthcare professionals, there will be greater access to the vital healthcare services pharmacists provide. Recognizing pharmacists as independent providers will allow Marylanders increased access to routine tests and, ultimately, decrease unmet health needs.