On the evening of March 11, the Health and Government Operations Committee passed emergency legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the increasing cases of coronavirus (COVID-19), this legislation, which authorizes the governor to execute a series of actions to facilitate health care and mitigate the financial costs of the illness, will now go to the floor. HB 1663 authorizes the governor to use funds from the Rainy Day Fund to accomplish the goals mentioned below. Specifically, the governor is authorized to:
- Prohibit cost-sharing by an insurer, nonprofit health service plan, or health maintenance organization (collectively known as carriers) for disease testing recommended by the secretary of health.
- Order MDH to cover the cost of disease testing and associated costs if the costs would not otherwise be paid for by a carrier or another third party.
- Require carriers and Medicaid to cover a COVID-19 immunization.
- Establish or waive telehealth protocols, including authorizing health care professionals licensed out-of-state to provide telehealth to patients in the state.
- Order MDH to reimburse synchronous and asynchronous telehealth services provided to a patient, without regard to whether the patient is at a clinical site.
The bill also includes provisions that allow the governor to mitigate the economic impact that could potentially be seen if there is a serious outbreak in Maryland. For the duration of the emergency, the governor may prohibit a retailer from increasing the sale or rental price of any good or service to a price that increases the retailer’s profit by more than 10 percent. These goods and services include food, fuel, water and ice, medicine, medical supplies and equipment, cleaning products, building supplies and equipment, energy sources and storage space. This ensures Marylanders will have access to these essential goods and services regardless of their income level. HB 1663 also authorizes the governor to publish a list of goods and services to which this prohibition applies.
Finally, the governor may prohibit an employer from terminating an employee solely on the basis that the employee has been required to be isolated or quarantined. This protects Marylanders from being fired for staying home sick if they are infected.