Fasano’s hospital proposals may merge into ‘seamless bill’[JI]

May 20, 2015

Journal Inquirer
HARTFORD — Most of a series of bills addressing hospital consolidation, pricing practices, and acquisitions of private practices have failed to clear the committee stage, but one of the proponents said that is just a tactical decision.

Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano, R-North Haven, who co-sponsored the bills with Senate President Pro Tem Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the plan all along was to consolidate a series of proposals into “one seamless bill.”

“We knew that some bills, we’re just going to let go,” he said.

Looney could not be reached for comment this week.

The two lawmakers proposed nine bills on the issue of hospitals, but only two remain alive in the General Assembly. One of those bills received approval Tuesday from the Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, while another will come to a halt if the Judiciary Committee fails to take action before a deadline Thursday.

The remaining bills have all stalled due to various committees not taking action in time, including a handful that were referred last week to the Appropriations Committee.

But Fasano said the proposals were rolled out in nine different bills to allow hospital officials, health care providers, and others to comment on specific topics.

He was confident that he and Looney would be able to add the language of the stalled bills into the one proposal still making progress — a bill that would require all hospital sales to go through the same approval process.

“If we’re going to preserve doctors’ private practices, and we’re going to preserve smaller hospitals, and we are going to reduce the costs — when you see a chemotherapy drug go from $2,500 a shot to $12,500 a shot, there’s a problem,” he said. “These bills seek to bring that into a reality.”

State statute currently requires proposed acquisitions of nonprofit hospitals by for-profit corporations to go before the attorney general for a review. The senators’ bill would mandate it for all deals.

Other proposals would authorize the state to create a system for doctors to electronically share records; restrict the use of facility fee, anti-trust status for accountable care organizations, or a collaborative of providers who agree to coordinate care for a group of patients; and create a system that would provide transparency on the cost and quality of care from a provider.

Fasano also has been a proponent of creating a commission, modeled after the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, to monitor cost, delivery, and payment trends to watch for outliers.

It also would recommend policy changes and establish benchmarks for cost growth. It would analyze mergers and acquisitions to help understand their effects on the health care market.

Massachusetts’ commission is credited with cutting health care costs and identifying as much as $49 million in potential cost increases from Partners Health-care’s bid to buy a medical group.

“Massachusetts is the key because they had Romney Care four or five years before Obamacare, so what they’re experiencing now is what we’re going to see later on. So that’s the reason they’re a great state to look at,” Fasano said.

The Affordable Care Act, proposed by President Barack Obama and approved by Congress in 2010, is modeled after a policy instituted by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.