Ron George: University of MD Medical Systems should lose funding over AAMC cardiac care dispute
Thanks to a federal government waiver unique to Maryland, our state is considered a leader in controlling health care costs in the nation. I applaud Gov. Larry Hogan for signing a five-year extension of this agreement with the federal government that promises more innovation, healthier people, and lower costs.
Unfortunately, this model is threatened by the politics of our times.
In 2015, the Anne Arundel Medical Center filed an application with the Maryland Health Care Commission seeking state approval to renovate 12,000 square feet of space for a new, state-of-the-art cardiac care center that will include a partnership with the Johns Hopkins Medical System for heart surgery.
The AAMC application was fought by the University of Maryland Medical System, a private corporation that owns dozens of hospitals and healthcare clinics across the state. That opposition never questioned the health care needs of the citizens of Anne Arundel County; instead, it was based solely on believing AAMC may become a competitor to the UMMSystem thus they basically asked the state to kill off its competition.
Then, after three years of exhaustive and expensive analysis, the Health Care Commission unanimously decided that the needs of the residents of Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore were paramount and ruled in favor of the AAMC application. The University of Maryland Medical System, parent company of a hospital to be built in Prince George’s County, appealed the decision, only to see it upheld by the courts.
So now it is planning to sue the state if the AAMC plan is not withdrawn.
Let’s take a look at the politics behind this deal. The state of Maryland is contributing $200 million towards the construction of the new Prince George’s hospital. The state has agreed to provide a $10 million annual subsidy to the facility for at least 10 years.
The University of Maryland Medical System receives similar state corporate welfare subsidies for its other hospitals. And what does the system do in return for this taxpayer generosity? It sues the state in an effort to establish a regional monopoly and force Anne Arundel County residents to leave their county to find cardiac care.
Much of the $300 million the state has showered onto UMMS comes from Anne Arundel County taxpayers. And this is where our elected officials come into play.
I’ll be clear about where I stand on this: as a state senator representing Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, I will oppose any further corporate welfare state subsidies to the University of Maryland Medical System.
I will demand the lawsuits (and the monopoly they seek) be brought to an end. I will insist that our local residents enjoy access to quality, affordable cardiac care right here in Annapolis.
The motivations of other local politicians are less clear. Speaker Michael Busch is actually a Board of Directors member of the University of Maryland Medical System and, presumably, could stop the lawsuits and the effort to establish a regional monopoly.
For some reason, he has been unwilling or unable to do so. And my opponent in the race for the senate seat representing Annapolis shows little understanding of the issue.
Will she join me in standing with our Anne Arundel Medical Center or will she support those seeking to kill it and continue state subsidies of a hospital to be built 25 miles away?
I find it unconscionable that the healthcare needs of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County residents are being shoved aside in favor of a private corporation looking to kill competition. As a state senator, I will seek an end to Anne Arundel County taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize a University of Maryland Medical System monopoly and I will seek ending their lawsuit against our hospital.
The citizens of this county deserve high-quality healthcare here at home.
Ron George is the Republican candidate for state Senate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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