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For Maryland Residents, It’s Time to Be Thankful for Better Health

Elder couple exercising in the parkAlthough some politicians have derided the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare,” the truth is that it’s actually working. That’s what Congressman Elijah Cummings, who represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, recently wrote in a piece on Afro.com.

Cummings calls the ACA “an accomplishment of historic proportions,” stating that more and more Marylanders are enrolling in coverage for themselves and their families.

In 2014, that number stood at about 124,000 for enrollment in private insurance plans that complied with the ACA. That same year, 482,000 Maryland residents signed up for no-cost or low-cost Medicaid plans thanks to the expanded eligibility requirements as part of Obamacare.

The ACA has also made it more affordable for families to receive necessary medical care, says Cummings.

Many residents, he writes, “had been denied protection in the past, either for financial reasons or due to preexisting medical conditions.”

Research shows that a lack of medical care isn’t just bad, health-wise — it can also have devastating effects on Americans financially. The American Journal of Medicine found that 62% of Americans who filed for bankruptcy did so because of long-term illnesses or mounting medical bill debt, often as the result of being uninsured or under-insured.

However, Cummings praises the ACA, and state plans in Maryland, for getting more people insured for much lower costs.

“The vast majority of these newly insured neighbors received discounts on their insurance premiums in accordance with our national commitment to making health care more affordable,” he says of the plans.

The number of children in Maryland who remain uninsured dropped by more than 28% after the ACA’s first year, as well, something the Maryland Rep. finds “deeply gratifying.”

Cummings says he has long championed legal access to pediatric dental care, which is something that is now also required by law, thanks to healthcare reform.

The ACA hasn’t just helped Maryland residents access private care. It’s also helped keep costs down in hospitals, according to NPR.

Maryland has had a unique system for more than 40 years that has helped set the rates that hospitals pay. But within the past five years, prices began to rise, so the state had to come up with new measures to keep costs down for residents.

Legislators then decided to end the fee-for-service payments that hospitals received per patient and instead gave them a set amount of money at the start of each year. In other words, their funding would be the same regardless of how many patients were admitted or procedures were performed; the hospitals could then keep any money that was left in the budget at the end of the year.

Although it started in just a handful of the state’s rural hospitals, every hospital in the state signed on within six months — despite being a voluntary program.

The state also found that hospitals became more creative with their budgets and were able to help extend their care through community health centers and clinics, as well.

Cummings says that as Thanksgiving approaches, Maryland residents have plenty to be thankful. Healthcare reform, including in the state’s hospitals, is certainly high up on the list.

“We all have an important part to play,” Cummings concludes. “Doing all that we can to assure better health for our families and friends is truly an act of Thanksgiving.”

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