Legislative session closes next week, but much health care work still needs to be done

The 2014 legislative session ends at midnight on May 7. Scant time is left for action on a few health care bills, especially given that the state budget and other pressing issues are still unresolved.

Health care has not been at the top of the list for legislators this year. Most of the action has been happening outside the State Capitol with implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and public and private initiatives to improve the delivery of health care in order to promote better health and curb costs over time.

But the legislature should not be let off the hook for paying so little attention to health care issues. One big concern is trends in the hospital industry that have an immediate impact on patient care, choices for care and cost of care. There has been rapid consolidation of local hospitals into big networks, purchase of medical practices by hospital networks, and a national, for-profit hospital is interested in purchasing four nonprofit hospitals. (Click here for last week’s blog on this topic).

There are a few bills in the works that put more scrutiny on, and attach more community protections to, hospital conversion and consolidation deals, as well as hospital purchases of medical practices. The bills aim to provide more transparency and public accountability, and community/patient protections. (The bills – #460, #5257 and #35 – may be viewed and tracked on the legislature’s website at: www.cga.ct.gov .)

The legislature did pass one health-related bill (#36) of note this session. The bill, proposed by Gov.Dannel Malloy, helps expand patient access to primary and preventive care by allow Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) to practice independently. Receiving bipartisan support, the bill removes the requirement that nurses maintain a collaborative practice agreement with a physician, and instead mandates a connection to a physician only for the first three years of practice. It is intended to address the ongoing shortage of primary care physicians in Connecticut by making it easier for APRNs to function as primary care providers. APRNs can offer quality care to people seeking routine preventive care and help manage the needs of patients with chronic health conditions, such as asthma and Type 2 diabetes.

The legislature can ill afford to leave health reform by the wayside this year. Too much is happening on the health care landscape that could end up costing us all more money and put profit motives before patient care. We may all be sorry if our state does not take action in 2014.

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