In many ways, Maryland is a high-performing state in terms of health care and well-being. It claims within its borders a number of world-class hospitals and medical schools.
Still, Maryland continues to struggle with health disparities among its racial and ethnic minority communities.
In January, Lt. Governor Anthony G. Brown announced a series of steps designed to begin to address these differences in care, quality and outcomes — especially within the state’s hardest hit areas. The plan stems from recommendations developed by the Maryland Health Quality and Cost Council Health Disparities Workgroup and is anchored by an economic development concept — the creation of geographically based health enterprise zones (HEZ).
Enterprise zones are not new — they have been around for about 30 years. The idea of taking this tool, however, which involves reduced taxes, targeted federal and state tax incentives and regulatory relief to encourage investment, and applying to the insidious problem of health disparities is a novel approach. It ultimately may provide a model for other states and localities.
Kaiser Health News asked University of Maryland School of Medicine Dean Dr. E. Albert Reece, who chaired the workgroup that developed this plan; and Stuart Butler, who years ago helped develop the original “enterprise zone” approach, to explain how Maryland’s plan might work to close these gaps and what considerations might maximize the potential of these health enterprize zones. Their perspectives follow.
E. Albert Reece
Using A New Twist On Enterprise Zones To Eliminate Health Disparities Dr. E. Albert Reece outlines the specifics of how health enterprize zones would work in the context of the state’s overall plan to address health disparities. “It is my firm belief that these strategies can and will have an immediate effect on health and health disparities, reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of life for all citizens of the state.” Read his commentary.
Maryland’s Health Enterprise Zones Need The Right Incentives And Rules Stuart Butler writes: “As an architect of the urban “enterprise zone” idea, … a recent proposal in Maryland to set up health enterprise zones understandably caught my eye. I’m struck by the similarities in the strategies these two forms of enterprise zones enlist, which is why Maryland’s HEZ is an important initiative. … But the experience in urban economic development — from the Model Cities program of the 1960s to today’s generous corporate infrastructure and other city-offered benefits — suggests some caution.” Read his commentary.
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