HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Legislative efforts are under way to soften the blow of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's proposed budget cuts to hospitals, which officials at smaller Connecticut medical centers predict will be financially devastating.
Sen. Tony Guglielmo, a Republican from Stafford Springs, said he will urge members of the General Assembly's caucus of rural legislators next week to work together to stop the Democratic governor's plan to cut state aid by $208 million the first year of his $43.8 billion budget, and by $342.4 million the second year.
Guglielmo, whose district includes the Johnson Memorial Medical Center in Stafford Springs, said he worries that the state's smaller hospitals won't be able to absorb the deep reductions in state aid earmarked to mostly cover uninsured patients. Such funding was previously cut more than $100 million in December during a special deficit-reduction session of the General Assembly.
"When you start hitting them with all these cuts, it makes you wonder if they're really going to be able to survive," Guglielmo said.
There appears to be bipartisan support for helping the hospitals this session. Asked whether the legislature's majority Democratic leadership was working to address the hospitals' concerns as they try to craft a final budget agreement that Malloy will sign, House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said: "We're trying. We're trying."
Several Democrats, whose districts include smaller hospitals, are sponsoring a bill that attempts to restore the loss of funding for the uninsured. The bill is awaiting action by the legislature's Public Health Committee.
Rep. Danny Rovero, D-Killingly, said he worries about potential job losses at Day Kimball Healthcare in Putnam, which is facing an $8 million cut over two years. That's in addition to a $3.8 million cut it sustained in December.
"Day Kimball Hospital employs some 1,400 people," Rovero said. "In the rural northeast section of the state, any potential job losses as a result of the proposed hospital budget cuts would have a terrible ripple effect."
Malloy and budget director Ben Barnes both argue that Connecticut's hospitals don't need as much aid for uninsured patients because more people are insured under the state's Low Income Adults program, an expanded Medicaid program, and even more people will be insured as of Jan. 1, 2014, once the new health care exchange — the hallmark of the federal Affordable Care Act — is up and running.
"We know what LIA has cost us. We know that there are about 40,000 more people covered than would be covered in any other state," Malloy said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find a state that's doing more than we are, and so we need to adjust to that new system as a state, and I think the industry needs to adjust to that new system as a system."
Barnes has said the administration believes a planned further expansion of Medicaid eligibility and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will decrease the percentage of uninsured to 1 to 2 percent within a few years, adding how the state is still spending $1.6 billion on hospitals.
David Morgan, president and CEO of Johnson Memorial Medical Center, recently urged the legislature's Appropriations Committee to weigh the information they are receiving from Malloy's budget office with what the hospitals are experiencing.
"No amount of spin can change the fact that we lose, and will continue to lose significant dollars on every Medicaid patient we see," Morgan said, referring to how the state's Medicaid reimbursement rates do not cover the hospital's costs. "The plain truth is that the state is spending more money because the Medicaid population is growing. There is no windfall, only continued losses."