Health care topic at Rural Maryland Council lunch
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The act, itself, hasn’t been repealed yet, but the executive order stated the administration’s plan is to repeal it.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the legislative luncheon, the speakers talked about the Medicaid waiver Mar yland has received and wonder if it will be repealed, too.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.
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.