We should all be proud of the healthcare system we have built in Connecticut, and the hospitals and healthcare workers who are the cornerstone in delivering quality care when and where patients need it.

Connecticut hospitals work every day to deliver exceptional, accessible quality care for everyone who walks through their doors, regardless of ability to pay. Connecticut hospitals not only deliver remarkable care in times of crisis – addressing severe trauma, helping victims of violence, providing groundbreaking treatment to save lives, and maintaining emergency preparedness – they are also working to address health disparities worsened by the pandemic and to provide a wide range of services that extend beyond hospital walls to support community wellbeing and address social influencers of health, such as housing needs, food insecurity, transportation, and employment.

As hospitals strive to deliver the highest quality and most comprehensive care and support, pressures on the entire healthcare system are growing. Dramatically rising inflation-driven costs, workforce shortages, government underpaying caregivers for services provided to patients on Medicare and Medicaid, and an influx of sicker patients than before the pandemic are accelerating challenges that have left hospitals financially reeling post-pandemic and impact cost.

We are working hard to sustain world class healthcare delivery and improve affordability in Connecticut, and we need all stakeholders committed to working together and exploring all solutions to achieve this shared goal.

As the Gov. Ned Lamont says, it will take everyone working together to slow the rate of healthcare cost growth. If Connecticut wants to make healthcare more affordable, we must build on the policies hospitals have worked on alongside Governor Lamont and legislators. We need to talk about all healthcare spending in our state, not just commercial health insurance. And we have to consider smarter, more innovative ways to spend those healthcare dollars for everyone’s benefit.

We need partners who are open to exploring all solutions.  We need to address administrative burden and bureaucracy that drive up costs.  That should start with an overhaul of the state’s Certificate of Need program and getting rid of costly administrative burdens imposed by health insurance companies that delay and deny care. 

We also need to take the steps hospitals and health advocates have long encouraged, and address the underfunding of Medicaid – an issue that not only shifts costs to those with private insurance, but also deprives people who are medically underserved of access to needed care and social supports, which are major contributors to health disparities that lead to bigger health challenges and the need for higher cost care.

By consistently underspending on Medicaid relative to its peers, Connecticut has left more than $7.5 billion in federal matching revenue on the table over the last six years.  That’s federal revenue that could have been brought into Connecticut to both reimagine Medicaid support and reduce pressure on commercial health insurance premium prices and rapidly rising co-pays and deductibles that are a growing burden to consumers.

Hospitals step in every day to fill this gap, providing nearly $1 billion in unpaid care annually to Medicaid beneficiaries. But more is needed to prevent the gap in the first place. The reality is very little of what Connecticut does today through Medicaid is focused on the prevention of chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure, which are estimated to account for 90% of healthcare expenditures, a burden that is expected to grow in the coming decade.

Delivering affordable and accessible quality healthcare remains a top priority for Connecticut hospitals and the people they care for every day. Connecticut hospitals are already pursuing long-term strategies to build a healthier Connecticut; we welcome the participation of others at that table.

Jennifer Jackson is the CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association.