Maryland’s next governor must expand access to health care

As surgeons, we diagnose the problem, propose a surgical solution and perform a technically excellent operation – all in the service of achieving the best patient outcome in front of us. By caring for Maryland residents from all walks of life, we regularly see that our patients’ ability to make a full recovery goes beyond any nurse, doctor or hospital. Following the revelation of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are systemic deficiencies in the current health care system in Maryland. With the election of Wes Moore, it is clear that voters recognized the need for a candidate with a vision and plan to improve the health of Maryland residents.

Although there have been extensive health care reforms recently at the federal level, we strongly believe that health care is local. Maryland’s next governor must be aware of and committed to policies aimed at expanding access to health care and eliminating existing inequalities in health care. While expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act has improved access to health care in Maryland, nearly 400,000 residents remain uninsured according to 2021 nonpartisan data. Kaiser Family Foundation. We believe the Moore administration, which includes Lt. Governor Arona Miller, recognizes this problem and has identified multiple strategies to enhance access to high-quality care in the”Healthy Maryland today” plan.

As health policy researchers, we are encouraged to discuss the Moore-Miller Plan for Health Cost Control Measures. Based on state-of-the-art federal drug pricing controls included in Inflation reduction law, the fledgling Moore Miller administration seeks to use the state’s purchasing power to negotiate better costs for Maryland residents. This will promote innovative efforts across the state, such as Prescription Drug Affordability Board of Marylandwhich takes a multi-faceted approach to ensuring that citizens have access to life-saving medicines.

The “A Healthy Maryland Today” plan is also noteworthy for its willingness to build on the progress Maryland has already made. Specifically, the Maryland Commission for Health Equality Signed into law in 2021 – the governor-elect has recognized this important initiative and proposes to build on this foundation. In our role as surgeons in Baltimore, we have witnessed first-hand the health disparities that exist in the community. While the focus on providing care within the four walls of our hospital is important, we must also make sure that we are addressing structural inequalities that underpin historically discriminatory policies in the past such as re-planning, in order to be truly effective. Along the same lines, we hope that Governor-elect Moore will prioritize his proposed violence prevention measures, particularly those focused on gun-related violence. As the Moore-Miller team reported in “A Healthy Maryland Today,” gun violence is a public health crisis. To combat this crisis, we need multifaceted community programs aimed at preventing violence, strong efforts to promote safe firearm storage, and education about firearm safety.

We are encouraged by the clear observation in “A Healthy Maryland Today” describing the importance of including rural communities in all state health care policies. While the specific challenges may look different in rural Maryland versus Baltimore, a person’s ZIP code should not determine whether or not they are able to obtain affordable, high-quality health care.

Governor-elect Moore has campaigned purposefully and set a clear vision for health care in our state. As frontline healthcare professionals, we’re really excited about putting together a blueprint for improving the health of Maryland residents and can’t wait for the Moore-Miller administration to get started.

– Tig D. Azad and Joseph F. Drunk, Baltimore

The writers are surgeons with Johns Hopkins Medicine.

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