Baltimore City Public-Private Partnership: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Johns Hopkins Medicine & University of Maryland Medical System

Baltimore Area COVID-19 Public-Private Taskforce

On April 28, 2020, the Greater Baltimore Committee hosted the Baltimore City Public-Private Partnership: CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Johns Hopkins Medicine & University of Maryland Medical System webinar. Approximately 170 attendees joined the event, moderated by GBC President and CEO Donald C. Fry.

Speaking on the institutional perspective of the Public-Private Partnership were Kevin Sowers, President of the Johns Hopkins Health System and Executive Vice President of Johns Hopkins Medicine; Dr. Mohan Suntha, President and Chief Executive Officer, University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS); and Brian Pieninck, President and Chief Executive Officer of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.

In his opening remarks, Fry referenced how fortunate the region and state are for the partnerships being forged here. “During these unprecedented times, it is imperative that we find ways to work together, and to marshal our collective resources to fight the coronavirus. In Baltimore, we are fortunate that an impressive public-private partnership has been formed among three of our powerhouse businesses in the health care field and the City of Baltimore,” he said.

Institutional representatives spoke on just how imperative the partnership is for the state. Sowers began by providing members with an update on cases, noting that as of the time of the webinar, there were more than 3 million cases worldwide, with approximately 20,000 in Maryland. Sowers stressed the importance of tracking the numbers, saying, “…that is really the reason that brought Mohan [Suntha] and Brian [Pieninck] and I together. Looking at the enormity of this and really thinking about how we as individual organizations would be standing up our own processes to care and respond to COVID-19 epidemic in our country. We realized it would take more than just being able to do this by ourselves.”

Pieninck, President and CEO of CareFirst, provided the insurance company’s perspective on the pandemic and its impact. He described the situation at hand as unprecedented and said, “People like to compare this to something they’ve felt or experienced before. But the reality is this is really an unprecedented challenge. …really beyond the capabilities of any individual institution.” Pieninck explained that the magnitude of this pandemic is what is driving these organizations to provide their services to those in the state, and amplify the effects by better coordinating with the systems.

He described the partnership as having, “a level of effort at a scale that most of us have not experienced in the past. All of that has been conceived and built and executed in a very short period of time.”

Suntha noted that the partnership between University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins has been successful and explained the importance of the systems working collectively. “Regardless of how we as a nation or as a state fare in the crisis, ultimately we would judge ourselves and our organizations disproportionately by how we as a city respond,” he said. “And can we demonstrate the value of the collective intellectual capital and resources that we can bring to bear to bring partnerships together in order to take on this challenge collectively?”

Fry noted that the Public-Private Partnership would not exist if it weren’t for the vision and leadership of these CEOs during this unprecedented time, however, “implementation and execution of the plan is a hallmark to its success.”

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Commissioner of Health, Baltimore City Health Department, Public Co-Leader, Public-Private Partnership and Matthew Gallagher, President and Chief Executive Officer, Goldseker Foundation, Private Co-Leader, Public-Private Partnership provided an overview of the Public-Private Partnership and the processes that must take place in order to ensure its success.

Dzirasa started her presentation on the City’s response by providing some insight on the inception of the partnership, explaining that the initial partners approached the city with the desire to bolster Baltimore’s efforts in battling the virus. “Early on, this group really recognized that when it comes to protecting city residents against COVID-19, we all have a critical role to play and we are stronger by doing this work together.”

Dzirasa went on to explain the demographics of the city, and how many residents are at higher risk for the virus due to underlying medical conditions.

Gallagher, who is a Private Co-Leader of the effort, explained how the partnership is working at a more in-depth level. He touched on such topics as the structure of the program — including its seven work streams, call centers and communications, resource dashboards and hotspotting, data integrations, testing capabilities, special populations, care coordination, pending requests and comparative data for the city.

Attendees asked questions regarding testing, Personal Protective Equipment and the future of the virus.

One attendee asked if other jurisdictions had approached the partners to think about expansion of the program.

Gallagher responded, “Dr. Dzirasa and I briefed all of the regional county executives and the leadership of the regional hospitals. COVID doesn’t really respect jurisdictional boundaries. I don’t think there has been any hesitancy to share information between hospitals across jurisdictions.”

Pieninck added, “I know the two academic health systems and CareFirst have a responsibility regionally and statewide, as well. So, a lot of things you are seeing take shape here in Baltimore are being deployed in other parts of the state and even to other parts of the region, to varying degrees.”

By Zoe Adams, GBC

See the presentation here.

How to help:

Baltimore City and our surrounding counties are working together and with partners across the region to protect citizens and ensure delivery of vital services. Your tax-deductible donations can help support the safety of our regional frontline workers and emergency responders. If your organization or business is able to donate any of these essential items please call Baltimore City 311 or from outside of the City dial 410-396-2525.

  • Cases of Gloves (both food service and latex in all sizes)
  • Sanitizer
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Hand soap
  • Protective eyewear (goggles)
  • Spray bottles (empty)
  • Cleaning solution
  • Thermometers
  • Cases of water (individual bottles)
  • Protective gowns

Baltimore City is partnering with The Maryland Philanthropy Network (MPN is a Maryland 501c3) to support the regional response to the COVID-19 emergency by receiving and organizing donations of essential protective items.  Your call will receive a response to schedule drop off or collection of your donated items.  You may also specify which entity you wish to receive your items. At your request, a receipt of your donation can be provided at time of drop off or emailed to the address you provide.

To give to an emergency fund in your county please seek out your local community foundation – many have emergency relief funds in place.  In Baltimore please visit the Baltimore Community Foundation website and support the Baltimore Evolving Community Needs Funds. View a full list of funds in communities throughout Maryland on the MPN resource page — click the Response Funds tab.

To give your time, volunteers can visit the website of the United Way of Central Maryland or call United Way.


Also see:

COVID-19: GBC Coverage and Response

Special Update on State and Federal Legislation Related to COVID-19

COVID-19 Resources and Helpful Websites