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Hopkins dedicated to Baltimore’s health and well-being | READER COMMENTARY

Johns Hopkins medical student Lauren Claus spent two weeks as liaison between families of COVID-19 patients, who could not visit them, and doctors treating their loved ones. She learned the importance of empathy in clinical work while serving as go between relaying the families' concerns to the caregivers.
Johns Hopkins medical student Lauren Claus spent two weeks as liaison between families of COVID-19 patients, who could not visit them, and doctors treating their loved ones. She learned the importance of empathy in clinical work while serving as go between relaying the families' concerns to the caregivers. (Kenneth K. Lam)

The recent commentary written by Marceline White, “If hospitals want to be better members of society they should be more lenient on low-income people with medical debt” (Aug. 26), paints an incomplete and outdated picture of how Johns Hopkins Medicine interacts with our patients who are unable to pay for their care.

In April 2020, Johns Hopkins stopped authorizing new legal action related to patients unable to pay, even though hospitals in Maryland are required to comply with the state’s rate-setting commission which mandates that health care systems pursue payment from people who do not demonstrate financial need and owe money for their care.

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We employ dedicated and compassionate staff members who work with patients of low income to find resources to help pay for care. Our teams assist people with access to Medicaid, private health insurance and the Maryland Health Exchange. We have financial assistance programs in place for use when a patient is experiencing financial hardship based on low income or high expenses from medical care. Over the past five years, The Johns Hopkins Hospital and Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center have provided $1.4 billion in uncompensated care and community benefits to people who need it.

In her op-ed, Ms. White also casts doubt on hospitals’ messages in support of Black Americans and Baltimoreans outraged by the continuing injustice of inequality and police brutality.

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We speak for hospitals in the Johns Hopkins Health System when we say we share the outrage and the pain. We have not only issued public statements of support, but we have made a significant investment in operating a system-wide diversity, inclusion and health-equity strategic plan for our system.

Our mission is one of healing and compassion. In addition to direct care, the staff, students, trainees and faculty of Johns Hopkins Medicine have made and continue to make vital contributions to our city and our region.

Whether providing specialty care for cancer and other diseases to patients who can’t pay, running a mobile clinic that offers free primary care to children and pregnant moms without insurance, or distributing masks to our under-served neighborhoods to fight COVID-19, we show our dedication to the people of our city. By sharing clinical expertise in nursing homes statewide when they were overwhelmed by the pandemic, by bringing COVID-19 care to our communities most in need, and through so many other efforts, we demonstrate every day that Baltimore is our home, and we’re committed to helping make it better — for everyone.

Dr. Paul Rothman and Kevin Sowers, Baltimore

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The writers are, respectively, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine and president of the Johns Hopkins Health System.

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