Hospitals across Connecticut could see fewer staff and provide fewer services if the current budget is signed by Governor Dannel Malloy.
Jennifer Jackson, the CEO of the Connecticut Hospital Association, said the announcement from Hartford Healthcare that it would be forced to layoff more than 400 workers was only the beginning of what be a rash of layoffs.
“What we’re seeing play out is exactly what we anticipated when we saw the damaging effects of the budget that was passed" she said during an interview Thursday. "The increase in taxes and the cuts to hospitals, that was devastating.”
In the budget passed by the House and Senate on narrow party line votes, hospitals saw cuts to Medicaid payments as well as increased taxes for just about all of the services they provide.
They say that cut will drive many hospitals to look at their books to decide how to make the dollars and cents work differently than last year.
Jackson said, “Hospitals need a margin in advance of their mission. They have to invest in technology. They have to invest in the latest in patient safety. That takes resources. So it is absolutely vital that hospitals make money and that they invest in their communities.”
However, Democrats in power say hospitals aren't painting an accurate picture of either their finances or their decision-making.
Sen. Martin Looney, the top member of the Connecticut Senate, said decisions to make cuts in staffing or services only reflects on the hospital's values and not the demands of the new state spending plan. Looney represents New Haven with many constituents linked the Yale-New Haven Hospital System that announced closures and a possible restructuring last week that officials linked to the budget.
Looney said, “Obviously the Yale New Haven Hospital System and the Hartford Hospital System are the two most profitable systems in the state and their choice to make cuts in the way they did is a sign that they have prioritized high corporate salaries and maintenance of their profit level over community based services and the needs of patients and their employees.”
In some cases, CEOs of hospitals in Connecticut earn salaries in the millions of dollars. They say that sends a bad a message about what the hospital cares about.
Looney even went so far as to suggest that hospital systems used the budget as a scapegoat in order to reduce spending by downsizing.
“Clearly that is an option for some corporations to use the cover of the budget to attribute to that the reasons as another bases for one of the reasons" Looney said.
Governor Dan Malloy did criticize hospital CEO salaries last week, and today struck a different tune. When asked about the cuts and taxes to be imposed on hospitals in the current budget, he said the state has done more than its fair share to help hospitals be profitable in recent years.
“What we’re not able to do is simply say we can pay for everything that you want and that is on your list" he said.
Republicans, who were shut out of budget talks, say the state can't take chances with people's healthcare.
“My concern is how quickly these layoffs are occurring because they’re probably trying to stop the hemorrhaging and we may see more bleeding down the road" said Rep. Vincent Candelora, (R - North Branford).
Jackson with the Connecticut Hospital Association says the Democrats in control are overestimating the impact of high executive salaries.
“That’s not the issue" Jackson said. "Hospital CEOs run very complex organizations and their salaries are set very carefully by community boards and the costs of executive compensation are a fraction of healthcare costs.”
Lawmakers will return to Hartford and are expected to finalize the budget on June 29 during a Special Session.