Tom believes every person is entitled to affordable, accessible, quality health care.
Affordable Health Care:
Two decades ago, infectious disease experts warned that our country was uniquely vulnerable to epidemics because, unlike every other affluent nation, the United States has millions of residents without health insurance. Many who lack health coverage cannot afford to seek medical attention, even if they feel sick. A highly contagious virus “left undetected” because a person chose to forego care could “spread to family, neighbors, and other contacts,” making health insurance gaps “a risk to the nation’s health.”
These warnings came tragically true last year when the deadliest pandemic in more than a century hit. Based on peer-reviewed research, the non-partisan consumer group Families USA linked 25% of Maryland’s COVID-19 deaths to our state’s failure to guarantee everyone health coverage.
Regrettably, the glaring health disparities that have long existed but became so evident during the pandemic led to significantly more sickness and death in communities of color – not only because those disparities left people of color more vulnerable to severe illness from COVID, but also because people of color are more likely to lack the coverage they need to seek care. All of us need affordable health care that can never be taken away – but for some of us, that goal is particularly distant.
To be fair, Maryland has done better than many other states. We cover 94 percent of our residents – that’s above the national average and far more than before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. But Tom knows that 94 percent isn’t good enough anymore. It leaves more than 347,000 people without coverage. With so many lives needlessly lost to the pandemic, we can longer afford gaps in access to essential health care. Our goal must be 100 percent.
Tom wants to automate and streamline enrollment into coverage whenever possible. Maryland took important steps in this direction by creating the nation’s first Easy Enrollment program that lets people sign up for health care when they file state tax returns or claim unemployment benefits, but we can take this effort to the next level. More than 230,000 Maryland residents without health insurance – almost 70 percent of our state’s uninsured – now qualify for Medicaid or federal help buying private health insurance. It’s time to sign them up.
We must also address the glaring health disparities which impact communities of color in our state. The Maryland General Assembly created a new Health Equity Resource Communities program to improve health care in disadvantaged communities, and Tom is committed to fully implementing and strengthening this program.
Maryland should also join the handful of other states that guarantee health care to hard-working immigrants, regardless of their status. During the pandemic, these front-line workers have cared for our sick, grown and prepared our food, and delivered goods to our doors. They are taxpayers, and they contribute to social security with every paycheck, just like the rest of us. Woven into the fabric of our community, our undocumented friends and neighbors should never be turned away when they get sick and need help. Denying them health care is not only wrong – it is foolish. If someone avoids the doctor because they can't get health insurance, we pay far more when they turn to the hospital emergency room, where the unaffordable costs get passed to the rest of us.
Tom is committed to protecting and advancing reproductive rights and justice. At a time when women’s rights are under assault and states across the country are repealing women’s rights to their own health choices, Tom is committed to ensuring reproductive rights of Marylanders remain protected.
Minority and low-income populations are hurt the most when their right to choose goes under attack. Organizations such as Planned Parenthood provide safe and important preventative and reproductive health services to thousands of Marylanders, and especially to low-income people, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people, and people who live in underserved communities. Without that access, at-risk populations could lose their right to be able safely decide when, and how to start a family.
As Governor, the health and safety of Marylanders will always come first, and Tom will work hard to ensure that the rights of all Marylanders to make their own personal health decisions will be protected.
The opioid crisis has ravaged our state, and our fellow Marylanders are suffering. Opioid related deaths increased greatly during the pandemic as high-unemployment rates, economic stress, and social isolation also increased. The inability for treatment and recovery systems to open to the same capacity they were at prior to the pandemic also played a role in the lack of access to help for our struggling Marylanders.
However, even before the pandemic hit, Maryland had one of the highest rates of overdose deaths in the country.
Opioid addiction is taking lives and tearing apart families and communities, and Tom knows that we must work to help those suffering addiction and prevent others from becoming addicted in the first place.
As Governor, Tom will work to expand access to evidence-based addiction treatment services. However, recognizing that treatment is one part of what must be a multi-pronged approach to addressing the opioid epidemic, Tom is also committed to investing in harm reduction services, as well as prevention efforts.
Prescription Drug Affordability:
We must work to make health care more affordable for working families. The costs of prescription drugs are astronomically high, and if nothing is done about it, companies will continue to profit unnecessarily off of our most at-risk Marylanders. The lack of access to affordable prescription drugs for many of our residents is a public health crisis that must be addressed now, and the government has an obligation and responsibility to ensure that the health and safety of all Marylanders is protected.
Tom wants to bring outrageous health care costs under control, starting with the scandal of prescription drug charges. Maryland’s groundbreaking Prescription Drug Affordability Board is already cutting drug costs for state and local governments. It’s time to authorize the Board to cut sky-high drug costs for everyone in the state. The issue of prescription drug affordability is not a new issue for Tom. In fact, in 2004, Tom worked with his fellow Montgomery County Council members to start an initiative to promote affordable prescription drugs for County residents by implementing a prescription drug discount card that could save 15 percent to 30 percent off the full price of U.S. medicines. In that same year, the council approved $300,000 for a “Community Pharmacy” that would stock medications for use by the dozen clinics run by non-profits in the County that served the estimated 80,000 residents who were uninsured. The discount card and community pharmacy were especially helpful to those uninsured as it prevented them from having to pay the unethically high costs for their prescription drugs. As Governor, Tom will work tirelessly to do whatever is necessary to decrease these costs for our Marylanders that are struggling.
Mental Health Crisis:
In the wake of a global pandemic, nearly 8 out of 10 adults say that the pandemic is a significant cause of stress in their lives, and 1 in 5 adults say that their mental health is worse than it was previously. Our country is currently experiencing a mental health crisis that has particularly affected our younger generations.
Tom believes that we must take a trauma-informed and restorative approach to solving this crisis and helping our fellow Marylanders. We must ensure that there is equal access to mental health care no matter what zip code you live in or what your socioeconomic or racial background is. Mental health services must also be fully integrated into our first responder system, and we must promote and expand efforts to ensure that mental health calls to 911 are responded to with qualified clinicians and mental health workers rather than just law enforcement.