By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Leaders of state hospitals urged state lawmakers Tuesday to replenish the cuts in Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget, predicting the suggested changes could lead to deep reductions in medical services and staff.
They said Malloy’s suggested budget plan is especially worrisome considering recent cuts in federal funding.
“For us, the situation is quite bleak and troubling,” said Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Hospital. He said his 1,700-employee hospital has already undergone extensive cost-cutting measures and is still losing about $200,000 a month in revenue. If Malloy’s state cuts take effect, Barwis predicted that the facility would close its doors in three to five years.
Hospitals across the state, including Bristol, have been peppering state legislators with emails, urging them to reverse the governor’s budget recommendations. The campaign comes as the General Assembly’s budget-writing committees craft revised tax and spending plans in response to Malloy’s two-year, $40 billion proposed budget.
The Connecticut Hospital Association said Tuesday that Malloy’s budget would ultimately lead to about $753 million in total funding reductions over the next two fiscal years. That figure takes into account proposed changes to the state’s hospital tax, Medicaid reimbursement rates and a pool of funding originally earmarked to help lower-cost hospitals that have a higher portion of their patients enrolled in Medicare and Medicaid.
Ben Barnes, Malloy’s budget chief, questioned the hospitals’ doomsday predictions. He pointed to a recent state report showing Connecticut’s hospitals made hundreds of millions of dollars last year, with a couple of exceptions.
Barnes said he understands that the hospitals don’t like Malloy’s latest proposed changes. But he said if the system of paying for health care is successfully reformed, then more money will be spent on primary, preventive care and less on acute care. He said that ultimately means less money goes to hospitals, even though some are expanding their operations.
“Plus, we have a horrible budget situation that involves needing to make prioritizations,” he said, adding that the state is “not in the position to subsidize the expansion of an industry which, while it’s absolutely critical, we don’t believe it needs to be any larger in the state of Connecticut.”
Peter Karl is president and CEO of Eastern Connecticut Health Network, which includes Manchester Memorial Hospital, Rockville General Hospital and other operations. He said communities depend on hospitals and the Malloy administration needs to remember that those facilities are some of the largest local employers, taking care of the sickest patients in Connecticut.
“And if the governor and his staff doesn’t care about that, then hopefully he doesn’t get sick in a town that’s going to lose a hospital,” Karl said.