What’s next on health coverage?

We’ve received many calls and questions from Marylanders asking about the future of their health coverage during the transition in Washington, D.C.: Will I be able to keep my plan? Will my Medicaid coverage go away?

Many of those questions have come from Marylanders who have gained health coverage after years of not being able to afford it or qualify for it, and whose ability to gain health care is inextricably linked to their ability to support their families and to survive.

How the debate over “repeal and replace” of the law will be resolved, or what shape the health insurance marketplaces will take, can’t be answered with certainty yet. The future of various aspects of the current Affordable Care Act, such as tax credits to reduce out-of-pocket costs and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, will be decided by elected officials in the coming months.

For now, here is what we do know:

We do know that the state has achieved an impressive drop in its uninsured rate, from 14% to about 6% in just 5 years. The greatest successes have been in Hispanic and African-American communities that traditionally had disproportionately high numbers without health insurance.

We have seen 400,000 people in the state gain coverage, including nearly 280,000 Marylanders through free or low-cost coverage through the expansion of Medicaid.

We know that 1.2 million in Maryland are covered by Maryland Health Connection — one in every six people in the state. We continue to enroll hundreds of Marylanders every day in health coverage.

And we also know that this month’s Jan. 31 deadline for 2017 coverage is as important as ever for people in need of affordable, quality health coverage. Whatever shape a future program takes, your health (and your wallet) depend on the protections offered by quality health care. As our friend John of Baltimore reminds you, you can’t afford not to be covered.

So what now? Changes to the nation’s health care law will likely take months, or perhaps years. Our commitment to you and to providing the best-possible access to health coverage continues as strong as ever. Today, tomorrow, and onward, we are on the phones, we are on the ground in offices and libraries and churches near you to help you sign up by Jan. 31.

Yes, the issue of health care was, is and will continue to be extremely complex. But when it comes to whether you should shop for health coverage or not, it boils down to the simplest of questions.

As a speaker put it at one of our recent events, when you're feeling a pain and you don’t know what it is, your partner or friend or family member often asks five simple words: “Did you call your doctor?”

If you lack health coverage, it's much harder to answer “yes” to that question.