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On matters of health equity, Hogan is missing in action | READER COMMENTARY

State lawmakers and advocates say the General Assembly this year passed significant health care legislation but not all of it was necessarily signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun).
State lawmakers and advocates say the General Assembly this year passed significant health care legislation but not all of it was necessarily signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. (Kim Hairston/Baltimore Sun). (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun)

The editorial regarding Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes (“Gov. Hogan’s vetoes: all about political self-interest,” June 1) was exactly on-point. I particularly appreciated the fact that there were not just his vetoes, but also the some 400 bills that will become law without his signature. Included with those are four bills designed to address the egregious health-related inequities that have festered for years and are now, with the pandemic, all too apparent. If the governor were actually concerned about the health and well-being of all Marylanders, one might think he would take pride in attaching his name to these important efforts. The fact that he isn’t comes as no surprise to those who have been working for years on health equity issues.

Of course, three of the bills passed with little Republican support, which provides a pretext for the governor to eschew ownership and to adhere to the Republican agenda. House Bill 28 allocates critical funding for the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities and requires implicit bias training for medical professional licensure purposes. House Bill 78 establishes the Maryland Commission on Health Equity. And House Bill 463 builds on an earlier program to provide appropriate resources in at-risk communities. This is a clear example of the fact that, as the editorial so nicely put it, the governor is not “serious and engaged [in the] governance of his own state.”

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The fourth bill, House Bill 309, addresses the need for increased transparency and accuracy for race and ethnicity data. Without this, it is impossible to, not only develop successful policies and programs to address health equity, but also to hold the government to account for their implementation. Unfortunately the Hogan administration has an abysmal record in this regard. The most public evidence of this is to be found on the Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities homepage where the most recent “health equity data” is from 2013 and even the most recent COVID data is from July 2020. Obviously, even Republicans thought this bill was needed because only six in the House voted against the measure while all voted aye in the Senate. So, why couldn’t the governor at least sign this bill?

At least these bills will become law. Now, it is the job of advocates, policy experts and legislators to hold the Hogan administration accountable for fully funding and implementing these policy levers. And in the future, voters must hold Mr. Hogan himself accountable for his lack of leadership on one of the most important issues of our time — addressing systemic racism and the health inequities that stem from that.

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Leni Preston, Bethesda

The writer is a former president of Consumer Health First.

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