Gov. Wes Moore (D) made three new appointments to a state commission tasked with constraining hospital costs, and one is former Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health Joshua Sharfstein.
Sharfstein, who served as the state’s health secretary from 2011 through 2014 and is now a vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was appointed to the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, an independent state agency with goals of “reducing per capita hospital expenditures and improving patient health outcomes,” according to the commission’s webpage.
Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission was established in 1971 and is composed of seven members appointed by the governor. The commission reviews and approves hospital rates throughout Maryland with the goal to reduce the growth in health care spending overall.
Prior to being Maryland’s top health official, Sharfstein served as Commissioner of Health for Baltimore and then as deputy commissioner for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Moore also appointed Nicki McCann, vice president of provider/payer transformation for the Johns Hopkins Health System. McCann also chairs the Maryland Medicaid Advisory Committee. She previously worked at the Department of Legislative Services as committee counsel to the House Committee on Appropriations before joining Johns Hopkins as the director of health policy for government affairs.
The other appointee announced Thursday is Ricardo Johnson, executive vice president of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. He began his time at CareFirst as an associate general council in 2011.
Part of the effort to reduce hospital costs includes reducing readmissions to Maryland’s hospitals by providing more efficient and effective health care services when possible. Readmission is when a patient goes back to the hospital within 30 days of that patient’s initial discharge.
The cost review commission announced Thursday that 26 Maryland hospitals demonstrated that they reduced disparities in hospital readmission in 2019 compared to 2018.
The commission cites a recent study from Medical Care, a journal from the American Public Health Association, evaluating Maryland’s hospital payment incentives to reduce hospital readmission disparity.
The press release notes that “Black patients and others who are adversely affected by socioeconomic factors are more susceptible to readmission.”
Through an initiative called the Readmission Reduction Incentive Program, Maryland hospitals are allotted a financial reward when they demonstrate a reduction in the hospital readmission disparity.
“Maryland hospitals are able to earn a reward of up to 0.5% of inpatient revenue reductions in year-over-year overall readmission rate disparities related to socioeconomic status,” according to the commission’s webpage about the program.
In more recent years, the Maryland legislature has created additional groups in an effort to further reduce costs of medical services, such as Maryland’s Prescription Drug Affordability Board which was created as a product of 2019 legislation. That board is tasked to investigate how the state can reduce prescription drug costs for Marylanders.