General Assembly Wraps Session, Approves Health Care Bills

April 11, 2023

Montgomery Community Media

The Maryland General Assembly wrapped up its 90-day legislative session on Monday, April 10th.  A number of health related bills passed both chambers. The bills are now headed to Governor Wes Moore’s desk for his consideration.

Here is a sampling:

 Abortion and Reproductive Rights

The House of Delegates and the Senate approved a referendum for a constitutional amendment on abortion.  Voters will get a chance to decide next year whether to change the Maryland Constitution and guarantee a woman’s right to an abortion.  The General Assembly also approved legislation that protects Maryland patients and providers from anti-abortion laws passed in other states.  Another bill would allow access to birth control on college campuses.

Mental Health

The General Assembly passed a handful of bills aimed at improving mental health care in the state.  The main goals of the legislation are to expand access to mental health care and modernize the state’s mental health system.

Diagnostic and Supplemental Examinations for Breast Cancer

Patients often are required to make copayments for breast cancer exams.  Studies show the out of pocket costs for a diagnostic mammogram can often exceed $200 and a breast MRI often can cost more than $1,000.  Medical experts say these fees are too high for some people and that limits access to care.  The legislation prohibits insurers and providers from charging copays for these exams.

 Medical Bill Reimbursement

The bill requires hospitals to reimburse patients for out-of-pocket costs if they are eligible for free care.  Hospitals that fail to provide refunds to patients who qualify can face fines up to $50,000 for each violation.

Occupational Licensure for Immigrants

The legislation allows qualified professionals to practice medicine regardless of their immigration status.  Occupational boards currently require a social security number when a person applies for licensure or certification.  Immigrants, who are not citizens yet,  do not have a social security number.  Therefore, they cannot apply for licensure despite their education background and qualifications.

State Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County) sponsored this legislation and has pushed for its passage for two years.  She said Maryland currently has a health care shortage and this bill will allow immigrants “who grew up here, went to school here, received in-state tuition, and are ready to start their careers become nurses, veterinarians, nurses assistants, and licensed physical therapists.”

Kagan said up until now the state slammed the door on immigrants who wanted to obtain their professional licenses, and she called that “terrible policy”.  She said the legislation will now allow immigrants who have met the state requirements, who are talented, and want to work in Maryland the opportunity to obtain their licenses.

Kagan said 14 other states allow licensure for immigrants, and she hopes Maryland will join that list.  She said Governor Wes Moore is supportive of the idea.  She remains optimistic he will sign the legislation into law.