Malloy, GOP leader continue to snipe over hospital funding [JI]

October 15, 2015

Journal Inquirer

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Medicaid cuts could lead to poor residents waiting longer for doctors’ appointments and hospitals struggling to afford federally required technology upgrades, Senate Minority Leader Leonard Fasano warns.
Fasano, R-North Haven, says this is because Malloy’s administration, which points to hospital profits in defense of the cuts, ignores data showing the state’s health care industry isn’t really as healthy as the governor claims. It also downplays the impact of an increase the hospital tax, he adds.
“We are going to reverse the quality of medicine in the state of Connecticut by virtue of this tax, almost decimate it,” he said during an interview Thursday, adding Malloy “doesn’t give a damn about the health care system.”
Fasano contends that Malloy is relying on “fabricated” numbers to defend $63.4 million in cuts to supplemental Medicaid payments, a figure that becomes roughly $190 after accounting for federal reimbursements — Malloy did restore $14.1 million Friday to six hospitals.
The cut was the largest of the $103 million in rescissions Malloy announced in September, saying he expects state revenue to drop because of a shaky stock market.
Fasano, though, said Thursday the hospitals earned just $591 million in profits in 2014, significantly below the $916 million that Malloy and his administration have stated.
Fasano, and hospital executives, argue that $179 million in aid to the University of Connecticut and $297 million in assets that the Western Connecticut Health Network gained when it acquired Norwalk Hospital shouldn’t count.
Should the hospitals see the same performance this year, an increase in the hospital tax would leave them with a combined $35 million in profits, he warns.
That would pressure doctors to see patients with private insurance more frequently and limit hospitals’ abilities to meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act, Fasano said.
Fasano points to data from the Office of Healthcare Access — also Malloy’s source on profits — indicating hospitals lost a combined $20.6 million on core operations between 2010 and 2014, including a $146.8 million net gain in 2012, the only year operating revenues exceeded expenses.
Fasano said hospital profits are being driven by other sources, including donations, charitable contributions, and revenue from ancillary operations such as parking.
Malloy and his administration, though, argue that the hospitals’ profits have grown steadily since 2010, regardless of source, including $730 million in 2013, $628 million in 2012, and $417 million in each of the two previous years. Only three hospitals failed to turn a profit last year.
Malloy also has repeatedly pointed to an increase of $1 billion in state aid, up to $1.72 billion this past fiscal year, over a 10-year span.
“There’s no doubt that the hospitals had a great run when they took an additional billion in state funds over a very short period of time, but we can’t afford to do that any longer,” Malloy said while appearing Thursday in East Hartford.
Malloy also continued his criticism of executive compensation, saying, “It’s always amazing that the people who are complaining the most are the people who have $3 million salaries.”
Fasano agreed with Malloy’s complaint — he’s also been critical of hospital executives’ compensation — but said the argument shouldn’t be part of budget discussions.
He also continued his call for a special session, saying lawmakers should have the chance to say whether they agree with Malloy’s decision.
Malloy has welcomed other lawmakers to submit recommendations to cut $103 million from the budget, citing a poorly performing stock market, and criticized Fasano again Thursday for not taking him up on the offer.
“Senator Fasano says he wants to save money in government, but every time I make a cut, Senator Fasano is against it,” Malloy said. “He reminds me of the folks who eat their cake and then wonder why it’s gone.”
Fasano maintains that he’s had it with public discussions because of the governor’s tendency to dismiss counterproposals.
“If that’s the vote of the majority, being Republicans and Democrats, the majority party, I’ll accept that I lost the policy argument,” he said. “But I’m not going to accept where one guy stands on his throne and announces things like he’s the Lord himself, and we have to take this and say, ‘This is a truism, and you don’t question the Lord.’”
He did express opposition to two ideas publicly floated by Democratic lawmakers to reduce expenses — reducing transportation spending and seeking furloughs from state employees.
Fasano agreed that transportation spending is important and said it would be disrespectful to ask state employees to “take it on the chin” as a short-term budget solution “because of their (Democrats’) mistake.”