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Maryland state senator: Would Hopkins-affiliated insurer reconsider dropping Baltimore coverage? | GUEST COMMENTARY

A senior citizen is examined by her doctor.
A senior citizen is examined by her doctor. (Associated Press)

Recently my email inbox and phone line have been overwhelmed with concerns from neighbors in their senior years, some of whom have given 20 or 30 years of their lives and loyalty to Johns Hopkins institutions, and now have been cut from the Hopkins Medicare Advantage program. They have not only given their time to Hopkins, but to our communities, strengthening health care and education for people who come from all over the world. So, I have been pondering this question: Would the leadership of this powerful institution and the largest employer in the State of Maryland please consider rescinding this decision?

The seniors negatively affected by this decision were abruptly notified their medical coverage would be interrupted by cost and service by Hopkins Health Advantage Inc., a Maryland health insurer affiliated with Johns Hopkins Medicine. I suspect that cost will force many seniors affected by this decision to choose other health plans that will not offer them the same quality service as the Hopkins Medicare Advantage program. They will also lose the quality health care given to them by providers who know their specific health needs and will exercise best practices regarding their care.

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There are other complications with this issue, but the most staggering concern is that the only jurisdictions affected by the resolution are Baltimore City and Calvert County. Upon hearing this, I immediately thought about the number of challenges we are dealing with as a city: public safety, education, sanitation, housing and population loss to name a few. With multiple complex issues facing our city, it is astonishing that an institution, considered to be an extremely powerful ally of Baltimore City, would deliberately decide to disadvantage any demographic of its people, but especially our seniors.

While the health and stability of all institutions are rooted by monetary decisions, when thinking about the three vulnerable populations — youth, members of disability communities and our seniors — it is incumbent on those in decision-making positions to exercise moral, compassionate leadership. When dealing with urban jurisdictions with high levels of concentrated poverty, there are consistently tough decisions to make.

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For example, it costs more to educate young people in K-12 education, but the state of Maryland does not renege on the obligation to provide an education to every young person who wants it. There are numerous households that, for many reasons, are currently unable to pay their water bills, which stresses the system, but the City of Baltimore does not make the decision to discontinue water service for those unable to pay. Affordable Housing has a significant impact on the local, state and federal budgets, but it is not decided that housing options will be unavailable to those needing housing. Leaders make very tough choices, but it is imperative that we move everyone in every jurisdiction in the same direction. This is one Maryland, not just the Baltimore region, Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore, or Southern Maryland.

Our seniors in Baltimore City and Calvert County are desperately looking for their leaders to stand in solidarity with them because they are geographically located in jurisdictions facing more complexities dealing with the health care system. As a state legislator, I am limited regarding what I can do because of the federal preemptions connected with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). However, I believe that we must use every tool in the toolbox to help. Sometimes it may not be a legislative proposal but the bully pulpit that amplifies the conversations around inequities and breaking the structural barriers that devalue people and have plagued poor jurisdictions for decades. I ask each of our legislative leaders to question the motives of those holding great power that deliberately shut the door on over 5,000 seniors. For the leaders who rendered this decision, please search your conscience and ask yourself how your decisions impact people and the profound ramifications on of one our most vulnerable populations in the jurisdictions of Baltimore City and Calvert County.

Born and raised in Baltimore City, state Sen. Cory V. McCray (cory.mccray@senate.state.md.us) represents parts of East and Northeast Baltimore in the Maryland State Senate. He is also chair of the Baltimore City Senate Delegation and first vice chair of the Maryland Democratic Party.

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