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Md. health department to conduct required studies on dental coverage, obesity treatments and more

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Staff at the Maryland Department of Health and related agencies said at a recent Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee meeting that they’re going to have a “busy” interim period as they work to conduct over a dozen new reports and studies prompted by bills that came out of the 2024 legislative session.

“A lot of those bills that ended up passing did have a lot of reports as their main components,” Chris Coats, a health policy analyst with the Maryland Department of Health, said Thursday. “So there’s going to be a lot of follow-up after the session, during the interim this year and as we get ready for next year.”

Legislation requiring state agencies to conduct studies can be used to inform lawmakers for future bill topics, gauge the effectiveness of current programs and see where improvements can be made to help the state reach certain goals.

For example, legislation from the 2023 legislative session prompted the health department to project how much it would cost the state to provide state-funded health care coverage to Maryland’s undocumented population, resulting in some projections as high as $1 billion over a five-year period for the state.

While the Maryland General Assembly did not act on those particular findings this session with legislation to provide health care coverage to undocumented immigrants, lawmakers might refer back to the study’s results to consider future legislation down the line.

For the 2024 session, several of the studies prompt the Department of Health to investigate the possibility of expanding health care coverage for those on Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides a health care plan to low-income households. Many of the bills still need the signature of Gov. Wes Moore (D) before they become law.

Alyssa L. Brown, director of the health department’s Office of Innovation, Research and Development, said that the state’s Medicaid administration has 13 new reports and studies to conduct, many which have to be finished before the end of the year.

The Maryland Department of Health has over 50 new studies and reports, according to the department’s communication team.

“So this is going to be a busy off-season for the Medicaid program, even though this year we have fewer new benefits to implement than the last couple years,” she said.

Here’s a highlight of some of the new reporting requirements and studies that may inform future legislation in upcoming sessions.

House Bill 103, Sponsored by Del. Heather Bagnall (D-Anne Arundel), requires the department to consider the feasibility of providing reimbursement for health care providers to offer full or partial denture work, so that more health care plans will have greater incentive to cover dentures.

HB 103 will also look into the costs of providing reimbursement for dental house-call services, and will find an “adequate” reimbursement rate by referring to average commercial rates. The Senate version, SB 600, was sponsored by Sen. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery) and is also awaiting Moore’s consideration.

“It’s one of a number of different reports due at the end of this year,” Brown told the Medicaid Advisory Committee. The legislation requires that the Department of Health provide its finding to the Senate Finance and House Health and Government Operations committees by Dec. 1.

HB 822 and SB 790 deal with a Medicaid program called the Employed Individuals with Disabilities, or the EID program. Maryland’s EID program lets workers with disabilities continue to receive Medicaid health care coverage even if their income would typically make them ineligible for Medicaid.

Currently, people aged 65 or older are unable to participate in the EID program, but part of HB 822 requests that the department look into the potential fiscal and operational impact of implementing an EID program that could cover those aged 65 and older.

The House version is sponsored by Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Montgomery) and the Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Katherine Klausmeier (D-Baltimore) and Sen. Arthur Ellis (D-Charles). This bill also has a December deadline to report the findings back to Senate and House committees.

Some bills that require the department to conduct studies were initially written with different ambitions.

SB 594, sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Stephen S. Hershey Jr. (R-Upper Shore), initially would have required the state to provide “comprehensive coverage for the treatment of obesity” under Medicaid, which could have included behavioral therapy, weight-loss surgery and FDA-approved medications for chronic weight management in adults with obesity.

But the Senate Finance Committee amended the bill to make it a study instead. The House version, sponsored by Del. Robbyn Lewis (D-Baltimore City), was also amended to become a study, instead of mandating Medicaid coverage for obesity treatments.

HB 865, referred to as “So Every Body Can Move Act,” requires Medicaid to cover prostheses and other artificial body parts. However, the bill initially would have required broader Medicaid coverage to include what are called “orthoses.”

Del. Ashanti Martinez (D-Prince George’s) sponsored the House bill while Sen. Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) sponsored the Senate cross-file, SB 614.

Orthoses refers to external medical devices such as braces and splints used to support weak muscles or bones.

But the legislation was amended to create a study that would determine the cost impact of requiring coverage by Medicaid and commercial health insurance plans for orthoses. This would be a joint report from the Department of Health and Maryland Health Care Commission, to be presented to Maryland lawmakers before Dec. 1.

This story has been updated to include additional information from the Maryland Department of Health.


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Md. health department to conduct required studies on dental coverage, obesity treatments and more