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Saluting a champion for health coverage for all

Colleagues at the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange spent Thursday morning at the Rockville library with more than 60 representatives of agencies and organizations who work to get health coverage to families who lack it. The energy and imagination that filled that room about how better to achieve that goal was inspiring.

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings would have loved the scene.

The passion he brought to the idea that everyone deserves access to affordable health care was unsurpassed. Had he been there in Rockville, of course, his presence would have commanded the room. We watched such a scene many times. With his preacher’s cadence and booming voice, he would have gripped the lectern with both hands and implored anyone in the audience without health coverage to pursue Maryland Health Connection for it. “I’m not asking you,” he would say, “I’m begging you.”

Elijah Eugene Cummings passed away early Thursday morning at the too-young age of 68 after battling health problems. He represented Maryland’s 7th Congressional District, which covers about half of Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore and Howard counties. He said many times that voting for the Affordable Care Act was the most important action he’d taken during more than two decades as a congressman.

News of his death struck hard — across the nation, in Maryland and here at the health exchange, where his advocacy of the mission was greatly appreciated and invaluable. Thursday’s forum at Rockville library, which involved the Latino Health Initiative of Montgomery County and many others, just hours after his death brought at least a little comfort: The goal to which he was thoroughly dedicated will continue through the work of many.

We are eternally grateful for Congressman Cummings’ unwavering support.  His wife, Maya, and their family are in our thoughts and our prayers.