HEALTH ENTERPRISE ZONES (HEZs)
Jointly administered by the Community Health Resources Commission (CHRC) and Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), the HEZ Initiative is a four-year pilot program with a budget of $4 million per year.
The purposes of the HEZ Initiative are to:
- Reduce health disparities among racial and ethnic minority populations and among geographic areas;
- Improve health care access and health outcomes in underserved communities; and
- Reduce health care costs and hospital admissions and re-admissions.
To receive designation as an HEZ, community coalitions identified contiguous geographic areas with measurable and documented economic disadvantage and poor health outcomes and proposed a creative plan for targeted investments in community health.
HEZ Key Implementation Dates
- Fall of 2011 - Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown convenes the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council’s Health Disparities Workgroup. The key recommendation of the Workgroup was the creation of “Health Enterprise Zones.”
- April 2012 - Maryland Health Improvement and Disparities Act of 2012 (SB 234) is signed into law.
- June 2012 - Public comment period takes place to solicit feedback on the selection criteria for the HEZs, the potential uses of HEZ funding, and the outcome metrics that should be developed to monitor the progress and implementation of the HEZs.
- August 2012 - A Joint Chairmen’s Report, summarizing the public comment period, is submitted to the legislature.
- September 2012 - The HEZ Request for Proposals is issued.
- November 2012 - 19 HEZ applications are received and reviewed by an independent HEZ Review Committee comprised of experts in the fields of public health, health care finance, health disparities, and health care delivery.
- January 24, 2013 - DHMH Secretary Sharfstein designates Maryland’s first five HEZs based on the recommendations from CHRC.
- Spring 2014 - Program implementation and performance tracking of all five Zones begins.
- January 2015 - The HEZ second annual report is submitted to the Governor and the General Assembly. For a copy, click here: Second HEZ Annual Report.
- April 1, 2015 - HEZs begin year three of implementation.
HEZ Enacting Legislation
Chapter 3 (Senate Bill 234) of 2012 established a process whereby the Secretary of the DHMH, in collaboration with the CHRC, designates HEZs. The purpose of establishing these zones is to target State resources to reduce health disparities, improve health outcomes, and reduce health costs and hospital admissions and readmissions in those zones. The bill also authorizes specialized tax credit incentives to "HEZ Practitioners" who practice in a zone.
For an HEZ to be designated by the Secretary, a non-profit community-based organization or local health department must apply to DHMH and CHRC with a comprehensive plan to address disparities in a defined geographic area. The bill contains several possible incentives that can be utilized to address disparities within the HEZ including:
- Loan assistance repayment;
- Income tax credits;
- Priority to enter the Maryland Patient Centered Medical Home Program;
- Grant funding from CHRC; and
- Priority for receiving funds for establishing an electronic health records program.
The bill also requires the Maryland Health Care Commission to establish and incorporate a standard set of measures regarding racial and ethnic variations in quality and outcomes and track health insurance carriers’ and hospitals’ efforts to combat disparities. In addition, state institutions of higher education that train health care professionals will be required to report to the Governor and General Assembly on their actions aimed at reducing health care disparities.
Click here for more information on HEZ eligibility requirements.
HEZ Informational PowerPoint Presentation
Click here for an informational PowerPoint about HEZs.