Blog Category - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Thu, 21 Feb 2019 19:05:04 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Marty Rosendale: Trump Administration Takes a Positive Step to Lower Drug Costs, but More Action Needed from the Maryland Legislature The rising costs of health care and patient out-of-pocket costs that jeopardize access to care for Maryland families have rightly been a major area of focus for policymakers at both the federal and state level.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued a proposed rule that would help lower the cost of medications at the pharmacy counter and reduce patient out-of-pocket spending by reforming the drug rebate system. Under the current system, rebates are paid by drug manufacturers to little-known middlemen called pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). Health insurers hire PBMs to administer prescription drug benefits, negotiate prices with manufacturers, and set rebates with pharmacies.

While PBMs were originally meant to lower costs for consumers, because they operate in a black box with little transparency, it is impossible to know if these cost reductions ever make their way to patients, or simply enrich PBMs. The Administration’s proposed rule aims to ensure that savings are passed on to patients to help defray their health care costs, not pad the pockets of PBMs. This is an important, positive step. More must be done, particularly at the state level, to help patients afford the care they need at the pharmacy counter.

Maryland has been a national leader in reducing costs in recent years by increasing transparency around PBMs and reforming egregious PBM practices. For example, some PBMs had inserted ‘gag clauses’ in their contracts with pharmacists, which prevented pharmacists from telling consumers when there were cheaper options available, such as paying out of pocket for their medication rather than going through insurance. Last year, Maryland helped lead an upswell of state-based opposition to these rules, passing legislation that banned gag clauses. The federal government soon followed the lead of Maryland and other states and passed a federal gag clause ban. While last year’s legislation was an important change to help patients, more work remains.

This legislative session, lawmakers in Annapolis will consider multiple additional proposals to further increase drug price transparency and help rein in costs. By better understanding the cost of care, patients and providers will be empowered to make more cost-effective decisions about their health care, without sacrificing quality. However, as lawmakers work to reduce costs, they must be cautious not to support misguided regulation or legislation that undercuts innovation and puts breakthrough cures and treatments out of reach for Maryland patients.

Right now, Maryland is home to some of the most innovative life sciences companies in the country, who flock to the state not only for its highly-educated and skilled workforce, but also for the welcoming innovative businesses environment. These companies are working every day to create life-saving treatments for diseases that were once a death sentence and help support not only patients but our state’s economy. Burdensome regulation not only risks harming these companies and preventing them from the breakthrough cures patients need, but it risks companies abandoning selling medication in Maryland altogether because doing so would be too expensive. The consequences of either can be measured in lives.

As Maryland lawmakers work to drive down health care costs for patients, they must be careful to do so in a way that grows the innovation economy, bolsters Maryland’s position as a nationwide life-sciences industry leader, and avoids unintended consequences that harm precisely the patients that legislators are seeking to help.

Marty Rosendale is the CEO of the Maryland Tech Council, a community of more than 450 industry-leading life science and technology organizations.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 19 Feb 2019 18:27:40 -0500
Dave Anderson: How to break the government shutdown impasse The impasse in the dispute over the government shutdown and the border wall is an immensely complicated policy and political problem that pits two sides against each other who have diametrically opposed perspectives about the best path forward for the country.

It is useful to distinguish the different issues involved, especially concerning the very concept of building a wall.

There are basically three issues involved, which can be formulated in terms of questions:

Will a wall be effective in keeping immigrants from entering our country illegally?

Is the cost of building a wall worth it, whether that is $5 billion or $25 billion?

Will building a wall help or hurt each political party in question?

The first question is an empirical question. Empirical questions can be about the past, present or future. They basically are questions of fact. What in fact happened in the past? What in fact is the case today? What in fact will happen in the future?

Some questions about the future can be answered with great reliability — for example, questions about Newtonian mechanics. If we drop a ball from the first floor of a building, what will happen to the ball? We can determine with certainty where it will fall and how long it will take. With quantum mechanics, on the other hand, we cannot predict with certainty the velocity and position of subatomic particles at the same time according to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

With social science, it is impossible to predict with certainty what will happen if we take certain public actions, but some actions are more predicable than others. If we reduce Social Security payments from $900 billion to $300 billion, then we can predict widespread problems.

It is very difficult to predict with any degree of reliability if the wall would be effective. There are walls in over 50 countries worldwide, including Israel, and there are ongoing debates about whether they are effective in reducing illegal immigration and terrorism. Often walls are a part of the solution and thus it is difficult to know how important a wall is.

The question for the United States really cannot be answered in any responsible way in advance. We have no history in this area. This public policy topic is virgin territory for us.

Would the cost of the wall be worth it? This policy question is basically an ethical question since it concerns how we spend our tax dollars. If building the wall would ultimately be effective, then the answer is presumably yes. If it would not be effective, then the answer is presumably no. But since we cannot say with any degree of reliability if the wall would be effective, we really can’t address the cost question in any responsible way either.

Would building the wall help Trump and the Republicans politically? The answer appears to be yes. Still, it is hard to know. It could hurt them as Democrats may argue that it failed or was a waste of money and galvanize their base in 2020 to defeat Trump, keep control of the House and take control of the Senate. If the wall is not built, that appears to help the Democrats. But it could hurt them, since Trump could use this against them in 2020.

Of the three questions the one that is most complex is the third question, the political question. This issue involves posturing, leveraging, and a whole set of other issues connected to the House Democratic strategy to attack President Trump in the months ahead with their oversight capacity.

A resolution to the impasse will ensue if both parties give more attention to trying to answer the first two questions. In their quest to answer them, both sides would discover that they have weaker overall positions than they thought. House and Senate Republicans should take the lead on addressing these questions since President Trump clearly will not. Leaders Schumer and Pelosi and their staff should address these questions also.

Even if President Trump’s actions are a political stunt, the issue at this point is not just between him and the Democrats; it involves the Republican leadership and all Republican representatives and senators.

We need to move from the theater of the absurd to some honest acknowledgment that both sides cannot be right and neither side has knock-down arguments.

Moreover, positioning for 2020 should not be the driving factor of this impasse. It is time to make a decision that is based on what is best for the country, which of course includes dealing with the frustration and financial struggles of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers, and not who will have power in 2020. Only when both sides accept that their opponents are not taking absurd positions will the impasse be resolved.

Dave Anderson is editor of “Leveraging: A Political, Economic and Societal Framework” (Springer, 2014). He has taught at the University of Cincinnati, Johns Hopkins University and George Washington University.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Mon, 14 Jan 2019 13:40:52 -0500
Peter Auchincloss: The Wizard and The Werewolf - A Reminiscence From Damian O’Doherty “As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, how good it is, is what it matters.” —J.K. Rowling

Peter Auchincloss rolled into my office 20 minutes early for a meeting, carrying several giant, black 3-ring binders. “Peter, the infrastructure team can’t handle another set of binders,” I said sardonically. “You are the only guy that reads, ranks, and prioritizes anymore. The rest of us just Facebook.”

“These aren’t for the team, my boy. These binders are for you,” Peter retorted. He dressed timelessly in khaki chords, a blue-button down, and a blue blazer. The bow-tie was a special touch, for everyday.

“Peter, I can’t even read summaries of summaries, let alone your binders.”

“This is different. This is for the most important decision of your life,” Peter said, as he walked away to our 28th floor outside balcony overlooking the city that birthed and launched America’s most impactful women — from Mikulski to Paepcke to Pelosi to Oprah.

Peter left the binders right in front of me. Annoyed, I opened the binders to get a glance. There they were. It was all so meticulously ordered, labeled, and highlighted. So much so that any yellow sticky note would go on work-stoppage in the face of this perfectly arranged set of documents.

The binders were filled with studies stacked upon studies. But, the studies weren’t about water or infrastructure, Peter’s area of acute policy expertise. The binders were about his passion: education, athletics, grit, and perseverance.

There was Dr. Richard A Holgren’s “Steeped In Learning: The Student Experience at All-Girls Schools,” Dr. Linda Sax’s “Women Graduates Of Single-Sex and Coeducational High Schools: Differences in their Characteristics and the Transition to College,” and Dr. Rosemary C. Salomone’s, “Same, Difference, Equal: Rethinking Single-Sex Schooling.” On and on, there were at least a dozen studies in the binders. These were studies about how girls get ahead. How girls achieve. How girls win.

Peter poked his head inside from the outside. All I could see was his face and his bow-tie. Peter was such a charmer, you could hardly smell the tobacco. He almost made second hand smoke tolerable, like the stuff that plumes out of orange BPW cones. “You’ll gravitate to the leadership studies, but you should focus on the STEM studies.” He popped back outside and puffed the cigarette.

He looked at his City. Peter was the planning chairman longer than most Baltimore pols stayed in office, or even jail. Peter was at the center of his city for 25 years. Now, he was at the center of my little girl’s life. 

Peter knew my four year old, Avey, was preparing for Kindergarten. You laugh. But, you prepare for Kindergarten in Baltimore. Public/private? Single sex? Co-ed? Steve Sibel’s Park School or Arthur Adler’s McDonough School? The Schaftel’s Roland Park or The Carey’s Bryn Mawr?

Peter overheard me talking with D.C. Power Lawyer Tim Maloney about his daughters’ experiences at an all-girl’s school in the Washington area. Maloney had a perfect anecdote about a fellow school parent who worked 3 jobs and watched over the endless Visitation homework from her 4 story walk-up. Auchincloss knew Don Mohler was pumping me about the Blue Ribbon excellence at West Towson Elementary, over-ruling his own niece’s tutelage at Bryn Mawr for a proper public education and an all-star principal. Mohler’s educational advice was pivotal and Maloney’s moving, but Peter liked to make his case with data.

“All these schools are amazing, but you have to read the data to understand how to make it work for your daughter,” Peter pointed out like a professor.

Peter has done this before, I thought. Peter paid 26 consecutive years of tuition at Baltimore’s all-girls Bryn Mawr School. Two daughters all the way through. Peter would explain how enormously prepared his daughters, Sara and Gabby, were for secondary school and higher education. But, Peter wasn’t pushing the brand. Peter was pushing women in education. Peter was pushing female leadership in STEM and athletics. Peter was thinking of the example his wife, Lisa, set for his family. I couldn’t resist, thanks to Peter, I became a 5-time payor of Bryn Mawr all-girls tuition. I hope my girl can hold a candle to the grit, smarts, and courage of Peter’s daughters - Sara and Gabby. Peter told me his girls surpassed every lofty expectation he could possibly conjure.

In a town riveted by high school credentials, Peter brought even more expertise to bear. While Baltimoreans loves their independent and Catholic Schools, Peter was raised in Connecticut and was an award winning student leader at Kingswood Oxford School. He brought an authentic New England eye to all-things Baltimore.

I asked my 9 year-old daughter, Avey, about Peter. Thanks to her mother, Bryn Mawr’s Carol Martin and Bryn Mawr’s Meghann Mohler-McMahon, Avey is an avid reader. Avey just finished five of the Harry Potter tomes. I asked Avey which Harry Potter character Peter brought to her mind. Avey says Peter had all the kindness and problem-solving of Hogwart’s professor Remus Lupin. Lupin was one of the four creators of the Maruader’s Map, while Peter delivered the only Baltimore City Comprehensive Master Plan of a generation. Peter and Lupin knew their worlds better than anyone. They made the maps to prove it. Together, Lupin and Peter eschewed the dark arts found in wizardry and politics. You can hear the fair-minded Hogwarts professor in this Auchincloss quote, captured by The Baltimore Sun in 2005, “What we want to do is develop a useful working document that transcends politics.” Policy, planning, and governance were not a game to Peter Auchincloss, they were a lifetime.

Lupin and Auchincloss were also both werewolves - at just the right moments. The night and special holidays brought on unique characteristics in Peter’s persona. Peter used these times to bring Baltimore together to break bread and celebrate our shared moments. The Ruth’s Chris Bananas Foster sorcery was classic Auchincloss smoke and mirrors. Peter’s dessert making routine was as disciplined, dynamic, and full of flare as Peter himself. Peter and Lisa’s steeplechase parties won all the award’s and attracted the states most impactful people - from Annapolis lobbyist Tim Perry, City officials from Bill Cole to Eric Costello, to Baltimore redeveloper Arsh Mirmiran and land use experts Joe Woolman and Ryan Potter. The Auchincloss Family hosted Baltimoreans at The Blessing of The Hounds in Hunt Valley on Thanksgiving Day and incredible parties in Dickeyville - home to many wizarding homes, like the Muggle village of Otter St Catchpole in the Potter books.

Dickeyville blessed Lisa, Sara, and Gabby with a quiet, glowing vigil with candles lighting the path to the town chapel. The family grieved quietly, together alone. Peter brought so much verve to Baltimore, but at that moment, it was the stillness that we will always remember. Baltimore will never be the same without Peter Auchincloss, but Peter left a legacy of purposeful public engagement that we know his beautiful and accomplished daughters will continue to bring forward.

Please join The Auchincloss Family to memorialize Peter’s great life on Saturday, January 5 at 3pm at the Baltimore War Memorial - Memorial Hall.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 02 Jan 2019 05:19:15 -0500
More than 800 Clinical Trials for New Medicines in Maryland Provide Potentially Life-Saving Treatments to Thousands of Marylanders A new report touting the enormous impact of clinical trials performed by the biopharmaceutical industry in Maryland specifies that 856 clinical trials are currently underway in the state creating hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and helping Marylanders across the state fight debilitating diseases. The report, “Research in Your Backyard:  Developing Cures, Creating Jobs,” talks about the 5910 clinical trials in Maryland since 2004 that have targeted diseases and conditions like asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 

In 2013 alone, more than 25,000 Marylanders participated in clinical trials in Maryland that had an economic impact on the state estimated at more than $527 million. And, in 2015, Maryland biopharmaceutical companies supported the generation of $27.5 billion in economic activity and 111,700 jobs throughout the state.

"Clinical trials have been conducted in every corner of Maryland, not only in Baltimore and Bethesda, the home of NIH and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but also in Hagerstown, Frederick, Annapolis, Rockville, Salisbury, Cumberland and several other communities. Patients and local economies from all over the state have benefited from the strong partnership and collaboration between the nation’s biopharmaceutical research companies, government and academic research institutions,” said Martin Rosendale, CEO, Maryland Technology Council.

The report, presented by the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers of America, was released at a “Putting Patients First” summit organized by We Work for Health, an effort to promote the significant social and economic value of the biopharmaceutical and life sciences sectors in Maryland. The partnership includes biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as state and local chambers of commerce, academic and research institutions, labor, patient advocate groups, physicians and healthcare providers. The partners work to drive innovation, research and development to new cures. The discussion at the summit centered on how to ensure the innovative research and medicines being developed in Maryland stay in Maryland in the future.

“It’s incredibly important that patients are aware of ongoing trials and learn how they can help become part of finding a cure for the toughest chronic conditions and diseases we face today,” said Nick McGee, Director of Public Affairs for PhRMA. “Maryland is one of the most active states for clinical trials in the country.  It’s an incredible opportunity for its residents to be able to be a part of these groundbreaking discoveries that could lead to cures for some of the most devastating diseases.”

In the development of new medicines, clinical trials are conducted to prove therapeutic safety and effectiveness and compile the evidence needed for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve new treatments.

Clinical tests of new drugs are conducted in three phases and, on average, account for nearly seven of the more than 10 years it takes to bring a new drug from development to patients. Clinical trials are responsible for more than half of the $2.6 billion average cost of developing one new innovative medicine.

For patients, clinical trials offer the potential for another therapeutic option. Clinical tests may provide a new avenue of care for some chronic disease sufferers who are still searching for the medicines that are best for them.

Some clinical trials are conducted to compare existing treatments and some are done to explore whether a drug is appropriate for a different patient population, such as children or the elderly. Still others are conducted to find ways to make existing approved drugs more effective and easier to use with fewer side effects.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Thu, 20 Dec 2018 00:30:17 -0500
Don Mohler reflects on Kevin Kamenetz, Gone Too Soon There were two months to go until the election. On May 8, 2018, Kevin Kamenetz had just finished filming 14 hours of television commercials that we were all sure would propel him to the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on June 26. And then two days later on May 10, the phone rang shortly after 2 a.m. When the phone rings at that hour, it is never good news. This time was no different. On the other end of the line was the Deputy Fire Chief with words that I will never forget: “Don, the County Executive is in cardiac arrest. You should get to the hospital now.” Thirty minutes later my friend was gone.

It is not possible to capture the soul and spirit of Kevin Kamenetz in a few hundred words, so with that in mind, I will settle for some glimpses into the life of a man who was at the center of Baltimore County politics and leadership for more than a quarter of a century. But Kevin’s story doesn’t begin with governing or election-night victories. It starts with family.

His love of his wife Jill, and their boys Karson and Dylan, trumped any win he ever had in the courtroom or on the campaign trail. Homework? Not a problem. Kevin was there to help. Bar Mitzvah lessons at Baltimore Hebrew? That was special because it reconnected Kevin to his Jewish roots, so much a part of who he was. And oh, those trips to school each morning. That 20-minute ride from Owings Mills to Gilman was without a doubt his favorite part of the day. And as Jill so eloquently reminded us on the morning we said goodbye, Kevin had just told her that the campaign would soon be over, and he was looking forward to having more time to spend with her and the boys. That was not to be. When you think of Kevin Kamenetz, think of his family first. He did.

The County Executive’s inspiration in his public career can be captured in his favorite quote from Hubert Humphrey. “It was once said that the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life - the children; those who are in the twilight of life - the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life - the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” You don’t often hear the former Vice President referred to as an inspirational hero, but for Kevin these words resonated. They captured the essence of what government was supposed to do and what it was supposed to be.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: Kevin Kamenetz was impatient, he could be gruff, and he could get angry. He could make you mad, and he could certainly get mad in return. But as those who knew him best will tell you, that anger never lasted beyond the moment. Have your say. Take your best shot. Move on. That was the Kamenetz way. He had trouble understanding those who held a grudge. “When I was growing up, we used to scream and yell at each other all of the time at the dinner table,” he would say. “Didn’t you?” He was always surprised when someone would respond, “Not really.” But forget all of that. He was the smartest person in the room, and he wanted to get things done. And get them done he did.

Long before security cameras became a common public safety tool, Baltimore County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz introduced and passed legislation in 2005 mandating such cameras at shopping centers in the County. As he would do throughout his career, Kevin saw things that others had yet to see, and he was bound and determined to act on that vision. Those cameras have now become a vital component of a comprehensive public safety strategy. Kevin would delight in telling you that he knew that all along.

When a task force in Baltimore County recommended that the county move slowly on police worn body cameras and let other jurisdictions across the nation move forward first, County Executive Kamenetz rejected that recommendation. He knew that accepting that approach was the politically safe thing to do, but his gut told him that it was also the wrong thing to do. With Kevin Kamenetz, his gut was almost always right. He had great respect for the Baltimore County Police Department, and he believed that the cameras would improve the behavior of citizens and more often than not show that County officers were doing their jobs and doing them well. That is exactly what has happened. There is Kevin with that vision thing again.

As we would often remind people, Kevin’s grandfather fled Tsarist Russia to come to the United States. He never forgot that. The County Executive had a deep and unwavering belief that the immigrant story was THE American story. He believed that our diversity was our strength, and he was going to fight to protect those who were suddenly feeling like “others” in their own land. He was not about to have Baltimore County police officers serve as immigration agents. He did not believe it was their role, and he believed that it endangered public safety. His Executive Order made that clear. Good politics in the midst of a gubernatorial campaign? Probably not. Did Kevin Kamenetz care about that? Nope. Just do what is right.

He also believed that families struggling to make ends meet should be able to live in quality, safe and affordable housing. (See Humphrey quote above.) The County Executive knew that the concentration of poverty was destructive for the County, particularly for children. Was it popular to fight for affordable housing in Baltimore County? Not hardly. Was it the right thing to do? You bet. Case closed.

And we saved his proudest accomplishment for last. Kevin Kamenetz will forever be known as the Education County Executive. In 2011, he created the Schools for our Future program, investing $1.6 billion in school construction. It was the single largest investment in schools in the history of Baltimore County. The result: 16 new schools, 12 new additions, and wait for it…….. reducing the number of schools without air conditioning in the County from 90 to 2. It is a record of accomplishment unmatched in the nation. Thousands of students and teachers lives have been changed because Kevin Kamenetz gave a damn.

Would Kevin Kamenetz have become the 63rd governor of Maryland? We’ll never know, but it would have sure been fun to find out. We lost a good man on May 10. Godspeed my friend.

Don Mohler served as the 13th Baltimore County Executive, completing the final seven months of Kevin Kamenetz’s term of office.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 11 Dec 2018 22:13:10 -0500