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Critics of Hopkins’ decision on Medicare Advantage miss the bigger, more complicated picture | READER COMMENTARY

In October, Johns Hopkins announced it is dropping Baltimore residents from its Medicare Advantage plan, Johns Hopkins Advantage MD, leaving about 5,000 seniors to look elsewhere for coverage. (AFP/Getty Images).
In October, Johns Hopkins announced it is dropping Baltimore residents from its Medicare Advantage plan, Johns Hopkins Advantage MD, leaving about 5,000 seniors to look elsewhere for coverage. (AFP/Getty Images). (KAREN BLEIER / AFP/Getty Images)

“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” — that is a strong statement offered by state Sen. Cory V. McCray in his recent commentary, “Maryland state senator: Would Hopkins-affiliated insurer reconsider dropping Baltimore coverage?” (Nov. 11). Chastising the leadership of Johns Hopkins, he observes that the withdrawal of their Medicare Advantage plan from certain markets will force patients “to choose other health plans that will not offer them the same quality service as the Hopkins Medicare Advantage program.” Certainly, health care cost, access and quality are issues of great concern to the voting public.

However, his point is misleading at best. Current Hopkins Medicare Advantage Plan members are perfectly capable of maintaining their existing Hopkins health care providers by simply choosing the traditional Medicare program.

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While this may appear to be more of an opportunity for political posturing than any type of serious assessment (and that would be a pity), let us hope that Senator McCray’s motives are actually to highlight, and help us address, these concerns. Implicit in his statement is that the Medicare “Advantage” plans are superior to traditional Medicare. Indeed, such plans have lower costs and more benefits. How does this fact fit with the “Medicare for All” or a single payer system that have been touted as potential solutions?

Also implied is an evaluation of the quality of care delivered by one health care delivery system versus another. I certainly hope that patients and providers in those “other health plans” aren’t too offended by this thinly-veiled criticism of their plans’ providers. The public would be well served by publicizing the data upon which this evaluation is made.

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Meanwhile, the elephant in the room is the overall issue of the cost of health care. Maryland is the only state with a Medicare waiver enabling it to have a unique pricing system for its providers to charge payers. To maintain that waiver, it must demonstrate to the federal government’s satisfaction that Maryland’s costs are less than what they would be using the traditional Medicare system. This waiver is now 44 years old and was implemented when the costs were 26% above the national average. It would be wonderful to hear our elected officials understand and presumably promote our success in this endeavor for the benefit of the rest of the country.

That insight and understanding will win my vote!

Michael MacKay, Lutherville

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