February 16, 2010
By Christopher Dean*
The 427th Session of the Maryland General Assembly convened on January 13, 2010, and will conclude its ninety-day session on April 12, 2010.
In this session, legislators will likely scrutinize initiatives requiring new funding or increased funding from the previous fiscal year (FY). Because Maryland's constitution requires the governor to submit to the General Assembly a balanced budget and because 2010 is an election year, legislators will be mindful of an estimated $2 billion tax revenue shortfall when reviewing legislation.
The following summarizes significant proposed legislation.
False Claims Act
Senate Bill 279 proposes a State False Health Claims Act that would allow the award of punitive damages and attorney fees to the state. The proposed act would have a general six-year statute of limitations but would permit claims that occurred as early as ten years prior to the claim if the material facts have been discovered within three years of the claim. This statute of limitations would also apply retroactively. If a claimant's employer retaliates against him or her, then the claimant could obtain several "whistleblower" remedies, including reinstatement, punitive damages, and attorney fees.
Access to Healthcare and Coverage
House Bill 156 would reinstate funding to the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center. In August 2009, the Maryland Board of Public Works ordered the closure of the Upper Shore Community Mental Health Center, a rural mental health clinic located on the Chesapeake Bay's eastern shore, in an attempt to balance the state's current FY budget.
House Bill 198 proposes to require insurers, nonprofit health service plans, and health maintenance organizations to expand the coverage for children with congenital or genetic birth defects from ages nineteen to twenty-five years old.
Senate Bill 181 would increase the age of dependent insurance eligibility from twenty-five to thirty years old. In 2007, the dependent eligibility age was raised to twenty-five.
Healthcare Practitioner Matters
House Bill 114 reintroduces a bill from the previous session that would establish a uniform process for disciplining healthcare licensees. The proposed bill would also require a licensing board to charge a licensee within six years of actual discovery of or when a reasonable person exercising due diligence would have discovered the licensees' conduct. There are no limitations under the current law.
House Bill 147 proposes that insurers reimburse non-participating providers who provide covered services to beneficiaries while the provider is an on-call physician at a rate no less than the greater of 140% of the insurer's average rate in the geographic area or 140% of the Medicare rate for that area and indexed for inflation.
House Bill 324 is the third attempt to modify the Maryland Patient Referral Law to permit in-office referrals for magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography services, and radiation therapy by physician groups that are not radiology groups (legislation from a prior session does not carry over into the current session). The State Board of Physicians has held that the Maryland Patient Referral Law prohibits such referrals, although that decision has been appealed to Maryland's highest court, the Maryland Court of Appeals.
*We would like to thank Christopher Dean, Esquire (OBER|KALER, Baltimore, MD), for providing this email alert.