After more than five months of negotiation, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital and Hartford HealthCare announced they will seek state and federal approval to make the Torrington-based hospital the sixth in the Hartford HealthCare network. But regulatory hurdles could keep the deal from being approved for months.
As hospital officials describe it, state policy is pushing them in two opposing directions. Higher state taxes and funding cuts have added to the factors pushing independent community hospitals to join larger health systems, they say. But at the same time, legislators concerned about the growth of large health systems have been pushing for new restrictions on changes in hospital ownership, which hospital officials say makes it harder for them to adapt.
Updated 8:30 p.m.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has ordered the state Department of Public Health to postpone until next year any final decisions on certain hospital transactions – or reject them if state law requires a quicker decision – while a newly created task force examines the state’s oversight process for transactions and other major changes involving hospitals.
Charlotte Hungerford Hospital in Torrington has become the latest independent hospital to begin the process of joining a larger health system – in this case, Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of five Connecticut hospitals.
As large hospital systems have grown in Connecticut, the state now has just seven hospitals that are not part of a bigger system or in talks to join one. Are the remaining independents holding out for the right suitor? Or do they see a path forward as independent hospitals at a time when more hospital leaders are taking the opposite view?
The governor cut $192 million in Medicaid funding for hospitals last month, but the actual hit to hospitals could end up being 25 percent higher. The state is holding back additional payments that weren’t part of the cost-saving measure, and the governor’s budget office said decisions about whether to pay them will be “based on whether we have enough money to keep the budget in balance.”