Gov Wes Moore (D) is standing by his recent appointments to a powerful state commission that regulates hospital costs — despite questions about whether they are legally eligible to serve.
The issue was raised when Moore named two high-profile appointees to the Health Services Cost Review Commission: Nicki McCann, vice president of provider/payer transformation for the Johns Hopkins Health System, and former Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein, who currently serves as vice dean at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Looming is the question of whether their appointments violate a state law that restricts how many members can be connected to an entity regulated the commission. Also, a decades old ethics decision concluded that a commission employee’s affiliation with Johns Hopkins University violated a state employment conflict-of-interest law, given the close relationships between the university and Johns Hopkins Health System.
But after weeks of being mum on the issue, the Moore administration claims that the appointees meet all statutory requirements to serve on the commission.
“The Governor’s appointees to the HSCRC … meet all the statutory requirements to serve on the Commission and they are both highly qualified professionals with critical expertise in healthcare, population health, and health equity,” according to a written statement from the Governor’s Office on Tuesday.
It is “critically important” that the commission is comprised of the “best possible team of professionals who meet the requirements of the law to engage in this pivotal process,” it says.
“Over the next year, the state will renegotiate the terms of the Maryland Health Model with the federal government — at stake is the overall health and well-being of Marylanders, as well as the vitality of our hospital industry,” the statement says.
But it does not explain how the appointments comply with the state law or with the ethics decision, leaving the raised legal questions unaddressed.
Maryland Matters previously reported that in early June, the governor’s office announced three new appointees to the HSCRC, which is tasked with constraining hospital costs in Maryland.
Maryland law states that of seven members who make up the commission, four of them “shall be individuals who do not have any connection with the management or policy of any facility,” in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
Criticisms over appointments soon followed and worries that one of the new appointees may need to be replaced. In addition, the new appointments were also criticized due to the gender make-up of the commission.
Before the new appointments were announced, two women served on the commission. But now, McCann is the only woman serving on the panel.
Abortion rights activists argued that in a post-Roe environment, it is important to have pro-abortion rights women and individuals serving on that state commission. And Senate Executive Nominations Chair Pamela Beidle (D-Anne Arundel) has similar concerns, Maryland Matters previously reported.
As of now, Sharfstein and McCann are expected to serve on the commission at the next HSCRC meeting Wednesday, according to Adam Kane, chair of the commission.
“I think the Governor’s appointments are very experienced people,” Kane said. “It is my expectation that they will all be participating in the July meeting.”
This article was oringally published on MarylandMatters.org and is republished with permission.