2021 Keep the Door Open Update   

With just four weeks left until the Maryland General Assembly adjourns on April 12, MHAMD and the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition are working overtime to ensure positive legislative and budgetary action to address the priority areas outlined in the Coalition’s 2021 Keep the Door Open Agenda. 

Public Behavioral Health System of Care

In January 2020, the Maryland Department of Health (MDH) transitioned administrative management of the public behavioral health system to a new vendor – Optum Maryland. Optum’s IT system failed immediately, and over a year of chaos and uncertainty have followed. The situation has been incredibly destabilizing for providers, and it threatens access to behavioral health care at a time of skyrocketing demand. 

The dysfunction led MDH to issue estimated payments to community behavioral health providers throughout much of 2020 to keep the system afloat as the parties worked to fix Optum’s system. Now providers face the prospect of paying back hundreds of millions of dollars in alleged overpayments, but they still lack the reports and data necessary to verify the accuracy of those overpayments. 

At the urging of MHAMD and the Maryland Behavioral Health Coalition, a budget subcommittee took action last week to address the situation. 

The House Health and Social Services Subcommittee voted to withhold $1 million from MDH until the Department takes certain specific actions to assist providers in the overpayment reconciliation process. The language also requires MDH to secure a neutral, independent third-party to provide oversight and mediation in the reconciliation process; and file ongoing status updates on Optum’s functionality. The full House Appropriations Committee will vote on these measures today. 

At the same time, the full legislature is moving emergency legislation requiring the state to enforce minimum performance standards for Optum. SB 638 has passed the Senate unanimously and awaits a vote in the House. 

Other Status Updates 

We’ve hit the final stretch of the 2021 legislative session and committees are voting more frequently. With four weeks to go, here is where things stand with some of the bills MHAMD is supporting. Our complete bill list is attached. 

SB 5 | HB 28 requires health practitioners to complete implicit bias training as a condition of licensure. Each bill has passed from its chamber of origin and awaits a vote in the opposite chamber. 

SB 52 | HB 78 establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity to study and make recommendations to reduce health disparities. Each bill has passed from its chamber of origin and awaits a vote in the opposite chamber. 

HB 466 requires higher education institutions to include mental health crisis hotline information on student identification cards. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits a vote in the Senate. 

HB 812 requires the development of a program whereby individuals can opt-in to receive periodic mental health check-in calls. The bill passed the House unanimously and awaits a vote in the Senate.

 Further information about the material above is available on the Maryland General Assembly website. 


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