Maryland Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein and his co-authors were right on the money in their recent commentary regarding the importance of making health care more affordable as the state goes about implementing federal health reform ("Caring about costs, too," Sept. 27).
We at the Maryland Health Care For All! Coalition applaud his vision and embrace the opportunity to transform Maryland's health care system to reduce costs, improve health outcomes and achieve health equity. Improving access to preventive, seamless, high quality care through the new initiatives that Secretary Sharfstein proposes are very important to move us forward. As we move forward together, we as patients, caregivers and community stakeholders also have an important role to play in building a more cost-effective and high-quality health care system.
While Maryland leads the nation in implementing innovative policies to expand access to care, there is still much work to be done and policy decisions to be made. The ultimate success of the endeavors outlined by Dr. Sharfstein will be in the hands of consumers and whether they choose to participate in the new Maryland Health Connection, claim tax credits or enroll in other new programs like the Patient Centered Medical Home program. Consumers have an unique and necessary perspective to add to the conversation and influence the design and financing of these programs.
On behalf of the 1,200 consumer organizations we represent, we are committed to working closely with the O'Malley-Brown Administration, other health advocates and providers to achieve our shared vision of a quality, affordable health care system that works for all Marylanders. In the past, we've built support for policies that expanded care to 300,000 Maryland families funded, in part, by tobacco tax increases. Let's continue to build on this partnership and continue our collective efforts to develop a stronger health care system while engaging and educating consumers about how to take advantage of the future of health care coverage in Maryland.
Vincent DeMarco, Baltimore
The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative.