Health care topic at Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil lunch

Record Observer - - News - By CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

AN­NAPO­LIS — The re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act and the lo­ca­tion of new en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties in ru­ral ar­eas were big top­ics at the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil’s leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties lun­cheon held in An­napo­lis on Fri­day, Jan. 27.

Some speak­ers brought up the re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act, also called Oba­macare, which now has 20 mil­lion peo­ple in­sured.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­cently signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der that di­rects fed­eral agen­cies to in­ter­pret reg­u­la­tions as loosely as al­lowed to min­i­mize the fi­nan­cial bur­den on in­di­vid­u­als, in­sur­ers, health care providers and oth­ers.

The act, it­self, hasn’t been re­pealed yet, but the ex­ec­u­tive or­der stated the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plan is to re­peal it.

At the leg­isla­tive lun­cheon, the speak­ers talked about the Med­i­caid waiver Mar yland has re­ceived and won­der if it will be re­pealed, too. Mary­land is the only state that has a Med­i­caid waiver where the state sets the health rates for re­im­burse­ment, said Char­lotte Davis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Ru­ral Mar yland Coun­cil, based in An­napo­lis.

“We want [the waiver] con­tin­ued. We are con­cerned about the re­place­ment of the Af­ford­able Care Act and the hos­pi­tals and com­mu­nity health,” she said.

When asked whether the re­peal of ACA is wor­ri­some to the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil, Davis said the group doesn’t know yet of its re­place­ment or how Mar yland will deal with it.

In gen­eral, ru­ral ar­eas still have the prob­lem of not hav­ing enough doc­tors to serve pa­tients, she said.

State Sen. Ade­laide C. “Ad­die” Eckardt, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Bud­get and Tax­a­tion Com­mit­tee, also talked about her con­cern about Med­i­caid waiver where hos­pi­tals are com­pen­sated in equal amounts in ru­ral ar­eas. There are no pri­vate hospi­tal in ru­ral ar­eas, so ev­ery­body has equal ac­cess, she said.

State Sen. Thomas “Mac” Mid­dle­ton started his speech by prais­ing the Mar yland Ru­ral Coun­cil, call­ing it a “bridge” be­tween Repub­li­can and Democrats and ru­ral and ur­ban ar­eas.

He, too, men­tioned the Med­i­caid waiver and said there’s $500,000 pro­posed in the bud­get to study keep­ing hos­pi­tals in ru­ral ar­eas.

The main speaker at the lun­cheon was Les Knapp, le­gal and pol­icy coun­sel for the Mar yland As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties. He spoke about a prob­lem which is con­fronting ru­ral ar­eas, sub­ur­ban coun­ties, ur­ban coun­ties, and even mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“What is this prob­lem? It’s how lo­cal zon­ing ap­plies, and when it should ap­ply to the size of en­ergy gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­i­ties,” Knapp said.

Back in the 1970s, the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion was granted au­thor­ity to pre-empt lo­cal zon­ing when mak­ing a de­ter­mi­na­tion of en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties, but to­day dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies are mov­ing for­ward and more agri­cul­tural and open space are now be­ing con­verted for en­ergy gen­er­a­tion rather than nor­mal de­vel­op­ment, he said.

Th­ese tech­nolo­gies in­clude so­lar, wind and other tech­nolo­gies com­ing on­line. They are con­sid­ered clean and green, but they are more spread out on land. It’s a draw­back of new en­ergy tech­nol­ogy be­cause th­ese tech­nolo­gies con­sume land.

Places in Mar yland are see­ing a “gold rush” with tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies, many of which are out of state, are try­ing to get rights to land de­vel­op­ment for en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties, he said.

There is a bill be­fore Mar yland Gen­eral As­sem­bly that ad­dresses the is­sue. The bill re­quires the Pub­lic Ser­vice Com­mis­sion to con­sider lo­cal in­put while de­ter­min­ing pro­posed en­ergy fa­cil­i­ties, Davis said.

An­other topic at the lun­cheon was the state’s bud­get. Gov. Larry Ho­gan and the Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved $2 mil­lion for the Ru­ral Mary­land Pros­per­ity In­vest­ment Fund dur­ing this cur­rent fis­cal year and $4 mil­lion is pro­posed for the next year’s bud­get.

The Ru­ral Mary­land Pros­per­ity In­vest­ment Fund sup­ports the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil’s ac­tiv­i­ties and the Mary­land Agri­cul­tural Ed­u­ca­tion and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund, which pro­vides funds to ru­ral non­profit ser­vice providers.

It also sup­ports the state’s five re­gional coun­cils, re­gional in­fra­struc­ture projects, ru­ral en­trepreneur­ship de­vel­op­ment, ru­ral com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment, and ru­ral health care or­ga­ni­za­tions.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil, call 410-8415774 or email rmc.mda@mary­land. gov.

Josh Hast­ings, chair­man of the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil, lead the group’s leg­isla­tive lun­cheon pro­gram held on Fri­day, Jan. 27.

PHOTOS BY CHRISTO­PHER KERSEY

Les Knapp, le­gal and pol­icy coun­sel for the Mary­land As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties, was one of the guest speak­ers at the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil leg­isla­tive lun­cheon on Fri­day, Jan. 27.

State Sen. Ade­laide C. “Ad­die” Eckardt talked about many sub­ject when she spoke be­fore the Ru­ral Mary­land Coun­cil on Fri­day, Jan. 27.

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