The spending bill recently approved by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama includes provisions important to Marylanders ("For better or worse, spending bill passes," Dec. 15). Thanks to the hard work of Sen. Barbara Mikulski, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, federal funding has been secured to help Maryland's hospitals prepare for and treat Ebola patients. As the bill was being crafted, the Maryland Hospital Association and the state's three designated Ebola treatment centers — University of Maryland Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center — which were among the first to step up to serve nationally, briefed Maryland congressional staff on the costs of Ebola preparation, noting that treating a single Ebola patient costs upward of $1 million and preparing to treat them costs millions more. The funding provided is critical to making sure we are doing all we can to isolate, contain and treat this deadly disease. That means Maryland's hospitals will be there for you.
At the same time, the bill requires the Veterans Administration to comply with Maryland's unique all-payer hospital rate-setting system when veterans receive care at a Maryland hospital. A recent law allows Maryland's hospitals to care for veterans unable to get timely appointments within the VA system. The spending bill now requires the VA to pay the same hospital rates set by the state for all other payers like Medicare, Medicaid and private insurers, and ensures that the integrity of Maryland's all-payer hospital rate-setting system is preserved — a successful system that Senator Mikulski pioneered decades ago.
We do things differently here in Maryland, and all Marylanders benefit. We appreciate that our elected officials in Washington understand the benefits of our uniqueness and are willing to work to preserve it.
Carmela Coyle, Elkridge
The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association.