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.
Today is the second meeting of a task force established earlier this year by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Connecticut’s Certificate of Need (CoN) laws. Along with a parallel study by the Governor’s Health Care Cabinet, the task force is supposed to help formulate a 21st century body of laws to govern our complex healthcare system. The challenge to both bodies is to place at the center of every discussion the interests of patients; access, both geographic and financial, as well as outcomes.
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.
Lisa Freeman recently tried an experiment: Before having a medical diagnostic test, she tried to figure out what it would cost. “It took no less than five phone calls, and I still never got to the end of the thing,” she said. A major transparency law intended to change that is taking effect this year. How will it work in practice? Health care providers say it might be bumpy at first.
It is hard to turn on your computer or to check out your evening news without hearing highly paid hospital executives saying that the sky is falling and arguing that they are on the side of consumers. In reviewing the recent filings with state regulators, it appears that this may just be an effort to create a distraction as they go about radically changing the health care landscape in Connecticut. If unchecked it is likely to have a very harmful impact on cost and access.
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?
Most of Connecticut’s 29 hospitals are in or joining larger systems, raising the possibility that parent companies will seek to consolidate services rather than offering every type of care at each hospital in their network. Does the state have the proper oversight to address cuts in what services hospitals deliver?
Hartford HealthCare and the parent company of Day Kimball Hospital say they have suspended plans to consider an affiliation because of “severe and unexpected” cuts in Medicaid payments, a reference to $192 million in funding reductions Gov. Dannel P. Malloy made to hospitals last month.
The hospital’s parent company says cuts are needed to keep the hospital open, but critics say the reductions being contemplated could undermine access to care in a part of the state with few hospitals and limited public transportation.
Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam could become the next hospital to join Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of Hartford, Backus and Windham hospitals, MidState Medical Center and The Hospital of Central Connecticut.
Two weeks after legislators passed a budget that hospital officials called devastating, Hartford HealthCare, the parent company of five hospitals, announced plans to eliminate approximately 335 positions.
Would binding arbitration or a “cooling-off period” help to avert the protracted contract disputes that can lead hospitals and insurers to threaten to sever ties, worrying patients? Or would they simply add more burdens to negotiations that usually get settled by the deadline?
Connecticut mental health and addiction services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer is leaving the agency to become a senior vice president at Hartford HealthCare, where she will lead the organization’s Behavioral Health Network.