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Sen. Cardin, Prince George's health care workers provide lifeline to uninsured patients

Senator touts Maryland's health insurance plans

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Published on: Wednesday, August 21, 2013

By Tauren Dyson

Prince George’s Hospital Center physicians said about half of their patients don’t have health insurance during a meeting with Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., last week.

Starting Jan. 1, those uninsured patients will face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. So the senator thought the hospital’s professionals would be good messengers to get the word out to the many uninsured patients that walk through the hospital doors on a daily basis.

“I am proud that Maryland’s hospitals, health care providers and health systems have been on the leading edge of implementing the benefits and consumer-protections of the Affordable Care Act,” Cardin said.

“As we move closer to the initial enrollment period, we are learning that rates in Maryland are among the lowest in the nation and that Marylanders will have a wider choice of plans available to them,” the senator continued. “We want to ensure that everyone is ready. Our community health centers, especially, will grow in their role providing quality health care to Marylanders.”

Approximately 180,000 of state’s more than 800,000 uninsured are expected to enroll in the Maryland Health Connection, a program that promises to offer affordable health insurance rates to state residents. It is estimated that three out of four residents who receive health insurance through the connection will be eligible for tax credits.

But the law could put a burden on the already strained health care resources throughout the state, particularly at Prince George’s Hospital Center.

“A study done by (University of Maryland) College Park, two years ago, identified Prince George’s County as needing about 61 more (health care) providers,” said Cornell Cooper, PGHC chief medical officer.

Currently, Prince George’s County has more than 850,000 residents. A lack of health care providers in certain areas has led to a disparity among residents in those areas.

Capitol Heights is a particularly hard-hit area in Prince George’s County, receiving $4 million in state funding as a pilot member of Maryland Health Enterprise Zone, a program that provides incentives and benefits to five underserved areas in the state.

Cooper said the hospital is working to place primary care networks throughout the county, particularly in places that lack services currently.

Directing his message to a table full of other health care providers, politicians and stakeholders, Cooper understood, even while the task would be a daunting one, that he and his colleagues would confidently take on the task of both getting the word out about the Affordable Care Act and providing health care for the needy.

“We are a great conduit for being able to get folks signed up for the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “We will work with the county to make sure we do our part to make sure our patients get what they need.”

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