Uncompensated care at Maryland hospitals indeed drives up the health care costs for us all ("Maryland hospitals struggle with uncompensated care," Jan. 12). We're fortunate to have community leaders who understand that improving access to care drives down these costs. Mercy Hospital CEO Thomas Mullen long has helped us save money by ending the homelessness of our clients, and Gov. Martin O'Malley has shown true leadership by expanding Medicaid for low-income parents well before national reform efforts. Federal reform now gives us the chance to increase savings further by extending health insurance to vulnerable low-income adults — not in 2014, but right away.
As noted in the article, experts agree that covering the uninsured reduces long-term costs. The Urban Institute predicts a 25 percent decline in uncompensated care by 2019 compared with more than a doubling of expenses without federal reform. We wouldn't see most of these savings, of course, until after 2014, when the federal government pays for covering low-income adults through Medicaid.
Why wait until 2014? Right now, the federal government would cover half the tab for insuring these adults, and Maryland still would receive the full federal match three years from now. Just imagine what we'll have gained: a reduction in uncompensated care earlier than expected, a healthier population that can seek preventive care in less costly environments, and an even stronger reputation for leading the nation in health reform. Especially in this challenging economic environment, taxpayers deserve no less.
Jeff Singer and Kevin Lindamood, Baltimore
The writers are president and CEO and vice president for external affairs of Health Care for the Homeless.