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Congressman Brown: “Justice and Equity Must Extend Throughout Our Communities -- Including Our Health Care System”

“Justice and equity must extend throughout our communities -- including our health care system. Prioritizing health equity must be a permanent, long-term part of our strategy to improve care and health outcomes in our state. We must ensure that we are setting our most vulnerable communities up for success by providing the tailored care and attention they need.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Anthony G. Brown (MD-04) testified before the Maryland House of Delegates Health & Government Operations Committee in support of the Maryland Health Equity Resource Act. The legislation would create a program modeled on the successful Health Enterprise Zones initiative championed by then Lieutenant Governor Brown. The initiative was ended under Governor Hogan.

“Targeted programs like this initiative are efficient and can drastically improve health outcomes in minority and underserved communities,” said Congressman Brown. “Justice and equity must extend throughout our communities -- including our health care system. Prioritizing health equity must be a permanent, long-term part of our strategy to improve care and health outcomes in our state. We must ensure that we are setting our most vulnerable communities up for success by providing the tailored care and attention they need.”

According to a 2018 Johns Hopkins University study published in Health Affairs, the Maryland Health Enterprise Zones initiative decreased more than 18,000 inpatient stays by 2016 saving over $108 million in health care costs, far outweighing the $15 million cost to implement the program. Maryland reinvested these dramatic savings back into our communities to further improve health outcomes.

In Congress, Congressman Brown has introduced the Health Enterprise Zones Act which would create a nationwide initiative to tackle health disparities in underserved communities. The legislation is cosponsored by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05) and Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02), Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-AL) and Robin Kelly (IL-02).

Read Congressman Brown’s remarks as prepared below.

“Mrs. Chairman, it is an honor and a privilege to testify before the House Committee on Health and Government Operations in strong support of HB0463. Across the United States, disproportionate infections, hospitalizations and quality of care are impacting our minority communities -- this is a systemic issue.

“This bill creates a program modeled on the success of the Health Enterprise Zone pilot initiative that I launched as Lt. Governor. The program set out to reduce health disparities by increasing access to care while lowering healthcare costs and in-hospitalization stays. We designated five Health Enterprise Zones in rural, suburban, and urban areas across the state -- considered underserved by our healthcare system -- including: Prince George’s County and Capitol Heights, Greater Lexington Park and communities in St. Mary’s County, Downtown Annapolis, Dorchester and Caroline Counties and West Baltimore City.

“We recruited doctors and health workers to improve access and promote healthier behaviors and each Zone’s initiative was tailored to the needs of each community: To meet different localities’ health priorities, such as mental and behavioral health, prenatal medicine or primary care. And to improve care and health outcomes for seniors in hard-to-reach areas, food insecure children, low-income families, minority populations, and more. 

“The initiative was led by collaborative partnerships between community-based organizations and the local health department or hospital. Through this innovative approach, the program and its administrators were able to address complex socio-economic issues in these underserved areas The results were a resounding success. According to a 2018 Johns Hopkins University study published in Health Affairs, Zones saw a decrease of more than 18,000 inpatient stays by 2016 during the pilot program saving over $108 million in health care costs, far outweighing the $15 million cost to implement the program. We were able to reinvest these dramatic savings back into our communities to further improve health outcomes.

“Unfortunately, this program was allowed to expire by Governor Hogan. 

“Targeted programs like this initiative are efficient and can drastically improve health outcomes in minority and underserved communities. That’s why I introduced the Health Enterprise Zones Act to bring a large scale version of this effort to the federal level. My legislation is built on the spirit of the original state program -- and by combining market based incentives with traditional federal resources -- we can take our state’s success and make it our country’s success. 

“Justice and equity must extend throughout our communities -- including our health care system. Prioritizing health equity must be a permanent, long-term part of our strategy to improve care and health outcomes in our state. We must ensure that we are setting our most vulnerable communities up for success by providing the tailored care and attention they need. 

“And looking forward -- we must work to meet these challenges now so that our most health sensitive communities are not so devastatingly impacted by future public health crises.  This bill will do just that. I stand ready to work with each of you on this shared goal”. 

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