Maryland Acting Insurance Commissioner Beth SammisQ: What challenges do you anticipate your particular state running into with upcoming health care reform provisions?

Beth Sammis: The ACA provides us with many opportunities, including:

  • Greater uniformity in consumer protections across states and markets
  • Greater pricing transparency
  • More tools to help consumers understand and get health insurance

Today, there is no one place where a consumer can go to find out information about public health insurance programs like Medicaid and commercial health insurance. The state health insurance exchange will allow consumers to do this. Bringing together these two parts of the health insurance continuum in an easy and meaningful way for individuals will be challenging for us and other states.

Q: For producers licensed to sell health insurance in your state, what developments might they look out for in the short term?

BS: There are many things producers will need to master in the short and the long term. In the short term, producers need to know the benefit changes that took effect Sept. 23 and the differences between grandfathered and nongrandfathered plans.

By 2014, producers need to know the:

  • Requirements for coverage for individuals and employers
  • Financial assistance available to individuals and small employers
  • General qualifications for Medicaid

Q: What should producers concentrate on the most over the next 10 or so years with regard to health care reform’s affects in Maryland?

BS: How best to inform consumers and employers about the opportunities for health insurance and what we should be doing collectively to make sure this happens.

Q: Is your state doing anything differently or preparing in any special way for health care reform?

BS: Gov. Martin O’Malley, by executive order, formed the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council almost immediately following passage of the federal health reform bill. The council, co-chaired by Lieutenant Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary John Colmers, has issued an initial report analyzing the implementation issues for Maryland and will submit a plan of action by the end of 2010. A number of workgroups are currently meeting and developing strategies in defined areas to ensure a thorough, thoughtful, and efficient plan to bring health reform to Maryland.

Q: What did you get out of President Obama’s recent meeting with several state regulators?

I was very pleased to be able to participate with my fellow commissioners in the meeting in Washington, D.C. with President Obama and his lead cabinet secretaries. The meeting demonstrated the president’s commitment to maintaining an open and collaborative relationship with state insurance commissioners as we bring access to affordable, quality health insurance to all Americans.

Elizabeth Sammis was appointed as interim Maryland Insurance Commissioner by Gov. Martin O’Malley in January 2010. Sammis served as deputy commissioner since 2007; prior to her appointment as deputy commissioner, she served as vice president of government affairs for United Healthcare for the Mid-Atlantic region.

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Maryland Facts At-A-Glance

Maryland

United States

Demographics

Total population

5,586,700

303,343,300

Median annual income

$65,183

$49.945

Health costs and budget

Health spending per capita

$5,590

$5,283 (by state of residence)

Average employee contribution for family premium (% of total premium)

27%

27%

Health coverage

Uninsured population (% of total population)

13%

17%

Uninsured children (% of children)

7%

10%

13

20%

19%

Medicare enrollment (% of total population)

14%

15%

Monthly CHIP enrollment, June 2009

99,582

4,966,030

Health status

Infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)

7.9

6.8

Teen death rate (per 100,000 population)

67

62

AIDS diagnosis rate (per 100,000 population)

27.6

12.3

Overweight or obese children (% of children)

28.8%

31.6%

Adults who visited the dentist/clinic (% of adults)

72.6%

71.3%

Adults with disabilities (% of adults)

10.2%

12.1%

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts