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Maryland is first out of the gate with a plan to replace the individual mandate — an early sign that the states that like Obamacare will be spending a lot of time thinking through what fits best into this gaping health policy hole that the Republican tax bill created.

The Maryland proposal would reinstate financial penalties for those who decide to go without health coverage. Maryland state Sen. Jim Rosapepe, one of the co-sponsors of the plan, tells me they’d like to set the fees similar to where they’ve been under the Affordable Care Act.

And it doesn’t stop there. Instead of simply collecting fines from the uninsured, the Maryland proposal would give those people the option to use their penalty money to purchase a health insurance plan. (You can read a one-page fact sheet about the plan here).

”Instead of looking at it as a penalty, Maryland would look at it as a health insurance down payment,” says Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at Families USA, a pro-Obamacare advocacy group that has worked on the plan.

”The point of this effort is to get people health insurance,” says Rosapepe. “It’s not to penalize people. It was kind of crazy [under the ACA] to collect these penalties and then go spend them for national defense. I’m all for national defense, but why not put that money toward buying these people coverage?”

The idea, as Dorn and Rosapepe outline it, isn’t to collect penalties from people who didn’t buy coverage. Instead, it’s to do everything the state can to nudge those people into using the Read More Here