Bmore Healthy Blog

Note From The Commissioner: Protecting the ACA

As an emergency physician, I treated patients before and after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before the ACA, I routinely saw dozens of uninsured patients every single day. They were uninsured not because they didn’t want insurance or believed they didn’t need it, but because they couldn’t afford it. I treated Sarah, a 47-year old nurse’s aide, who was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. Had she been insured, her cancer could have been detected earlier, and she might have been cured. Instead, Sarah died six months after her diagnosis, leaving her three young children without their mother.

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Note From The Commissioner: Raising Awareness

Last week, I wrote a piece for The Daily Record arguing that access to affordable prescription drugs is a human right. In the ER, I have seen time and time again what happens when people don’t take their medications because they simply can’t afford them. In Baltimore, I experience this limitation every day as we ration the life-saving opioid antidote, naloxone. This should never happen: nobody should be priced out of their ability to live.

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Note From The Commissioner: Advocating for Public Health

With the legislative session in Annapolis underway, the Baltimore City Health Department is actively advocating for public health improvements with our legislators in Annapolis. On Monday, I joined Delegates Brooke Lierman and Robbyn Lewis to endorse legislation that will create the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Program (MVIPP) Fund. The Fund will support science-based, public health approaches to prevent gun violence.

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Note From The Commissioner: Safeguarding Health & Well-Being

The Maryland General Assembly’s 2018 session has started. We at the Baltimore City Health Department are hard at work with our state legislators on a variety of bills to safeguard health and well-being.

A critical priority is protecting the Affordable Care Act and preventing the gains made from being rolled back. Last month, I expressed my full support for a state-enforced individual mandate bill, which would use collected funds and apply them toward marketplace plans for those who are uninsured but do not qualify for Medicaid.  I hope to assist with other legislation to strengthen the ACA, including expansion of Medicaid and Medicare and development of a public option.

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Public Health Heroes: Needle Exchange Team

Since 1994, BCHD’s Syringe Exchange Program (SEP) has worked to reduce the rates of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other infections through decreased circulation of used syringes provide clients with the best services possible.

Note From The Commissioner: Healthcare - A Human Right

On Saturday, I joined the 2018 Baltimore Women’s March. Following the rousing speeches by Mayor Pugh and Senators Cardin and Van Hollen, I spoke about why I was at the March. I was there for my patient, Sara, a 28-year old born with a heart defect who could not get health insurance because of her pre-existing condition. She couldn’t pay for her medications. One day, she went into heart failure. By the time she came to the ER, her heart had stopped beating and she wasn’t breathing. We did everything we could, but her heart never beat again.

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Note From The Commissioner: Representing the Best of Public Service

Last Friday, the Baltimore City Health Department hosted leaders from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including Acting Secretary Eric Hargan and Surgeon General Jerome Adams. During the course of their visit, we brought up many issues that are important to us, including providing urgent, additional funding to stem the opioid epidemicprotecting Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and ensuring best available science and evidenced-based practices.

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Note From The Commissioner: Before the ACA

I worked as an emergency physician before and after the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Before the ACA, I treated dozens of uninsured patients in the E.R. every day. They were uninsured not because they didn’t want insurance or didn’t think they needed it. They were uninsured because they couldn’t afford insurance.

I treated Sarah, a 47-year-old nurse’s aide. She was diagnosed with breast cancer that had spread throughout her body. If her cancer had been caught early, she could have been cured. Instead, she died six months later, leaving her three young children without a mother. I took care of Jesse, a 56-year-old construction supervisor. His medications cost more than his monthly rent; he skipped doses of his insulin and cut his blood pressure pills in quarters to save money. One day, his blood pressure was so high that he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed on one side. He could no longer speak, work, or take care of his family.

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Note From The Commissioner: Looking into the New Year

As we enter the New Year, I am thankful to continue my service to the City of Baltimore with the support of an exceptional team and under the leadership of Mayor Catherine Pugh. Every day, I feel fortunate to have a job I love and to work with people who understand how health is integrally tied to social justice and the future of our communities.

We’ve made numerous public health advancements. Baltimore City launched one of the most aggressive overdose prevention programs in the country, including my issuing a blanket prescription for the antidote, naloxone, to every resident in our city. This determined approach has resulted in more than 1,500 lives being saved by our fellow Baltimoreans—by our neighbors, family, and friends. Our outreach teams are on the streets every day to train residents on how we can all save a life.

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Note From The Commissioner: Prescription Affordability

Two months ago, Maryland became the first state in the country to pass legislation banning price gouging by manufacturers of generic and off-patent drugs. This is landmark legislation. However, much more needs to be done.

On Wednesday, I endorsed the Prescription Drug Affordability Initiative at a press conference organized by Maryland Health Care for All. Drug makers talk about the importance of innovation, and while we encourage research and development, physicians, patients, and family members have a right to know why medications are priced as they are. We have a right to know why medications that used to be affordable are no longer. We have a right to know about alternatives that may cost a lot less, but are just as effective. We have a right to transparent and accurate information, and a right to affordable healthcare.

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