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News Opinion Readers Respond

Md. hospitals need that $30 million [Letter]

The conclusion of The Sun's editorial, "Investing in lower health costs" (March 7), is that "unless the hospitals start making immediate and fundamental changes to the way they operate …" Maryland will not be successful under the new waiver from Medicare that allows the state to continue to keep health care costs down by setting hospital rates. Rest assured, Maryland's hospitals have already dived head first into immediate and fundamental changes, with most having agreed with the state to enter into budget arrangements that provide us a fixed budget per year to take care of people and work with other providers and community organizations to keep our communities healthier.

Ironically, the editorial's position that $30 million should go to organizations that are not at risk under the parameters of the new waiver is more likely to cause failure. That funding is critical — 40 percent of Maryland's hospitals are already operating in the red, and the investment required to meet the new waiver's requirements is significant. At the same time, a $400 million assessment on the hospital rates that consumers pay is a huge impediment to success under the new waiver, and a $30 million down payment toward eliminating that assessment, a goal expressed by the legislature, would demonstrate the seriousness of the state in taking the steps needed to keep the waiver's benefits, including nearly $2 billion in federal funding, flowing to the state.

Community partnerships are indeed part of our plan. But right now, that funding is urgently needed to help the state succeed in these very first phases of the new Medicare waiver.

Carmela Coyle, Elkridge

The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association.

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