Shuler: Johns Hopkins Should Live Up To Its Values

Baltimore, MD

The following are AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler's prepared remarks at a rally in support of nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital: 

Sisters and brothers, Johns Hopkins Hospital was founded 130 years ago on the ideals of “respect, dignity and integrity.” Its philanthropist namesake specifically set aside funds for a hospital that would “treat the poor without charge” no matter the patient’s “age, sex or color.”

Today, Johns Hopkins Hospital is abandoning its values!

A recent report from NNU and the AFL-CIO found that over the past decade, Johns Hopkins has filed more than 2,400 lawsuits in Maryland courts over payments for alleged medical debt from former patients. In more than 400 of those cases, the hospital won the right to garnish patients’ wages or bank accounts.

Johns Hopkins hardly needs help. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business! In 2017 alone, it received nearly $165 million in tax breaks—and here’s the kicker—$25 million in what’s known as “rate reimbursements”....to provide care to low-income patients who don’t have health insurance or cannot cover their out-of-pocket costs.

Charity care is something Johns Hopkins is REQUIRED to offer by the state of Maryland. Yet, it falls short of that obligation! Many Johns Hopkins patients would likely qualify for help to pay their health care bills, but say the hospital never even told them it was an option!

It’s no wonder Johns Hopkins consistently ranks last or next to last among Maryland hospitals in charity care relative to the reimbursements it receives from the state.

And listen to this: Of the 10 zip codes with the highest number of residents being sued by Johns Hopkins, 9 have poverty rates higher than the state average, and 5 have child poverty rates more than double the state average.

These lawsuits disproportionately harm African-Americans, the families who live side by side with the hospital. John Hopkins is a bad neighbor!

Despite our report and the media attention it got...despite widespread community criticism and outrage...and despite recent announcements from two other large hospitals—Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Methodist Le Bonheur [bawn-er] in Memphis, Tennessee—Johns Hopkins is STILL continuing its egregious medical debt practices!

That’s why we’re calling on Johns Hopkins to:

  • Cancel all medical debt lawsuits filed against low-income patients!

  • End the practice of garnishing wages!

  • Increase the amount of charity care it provides!

  • And guarantee that ALL patients are informed of the opportunity to qualify for free or reduced medical care!

We’re demanding no less than fair treatment! We’re demanding justice in Baltimore and beyond! We’re demanding that Johns Hopkins Hospital lives up to its values! 

Sisters and brothers, is that too much to ask?

Johns Hopkins—it’s time to end these egregious practices NOW!