Bipartisan Group Slogs Through Complicated Health Care System

By Lynne Ide

Last Thursday, the recently formed Bipartisan Round Table on Hospitals and Health Care hosted the second in a bi-weekly series of informational hearings.  The legislators involved are trying to get educated on what is going on in the state’s health care world – particularly as it relates to the consolidation of hospitals into large networks; the potential conversion of 5 nonprofit hospitals to for-profit ownership by Tenet, a national chain; and the purchase of medical practices by hospitals.  The November 6 hearing focused on physician practice acquisitions including “scope, causes and impact.”

The featured speakers represented an array of perspectives: CT State Medical Society, the state  Attorney General’s office, two large health systems – Yale New Haven Health System and Hartford HealthCare, a rural hospital system – Day Kimball Hospital, two independent physician associations -Grove Hill Medical Centers and Community Medical Group – and a diagnostic radiologist who runs his own practice – Dr. Conrad Ehrlich.

A major takeaway of the hearing was that no two “systems” are the same.  Each group that testified described the evolution of a system that was a response to many different forces at work, ranging from a very specific set of local circumstances to the overall health of the economy.  The huge changes underway for how health care is paid for and delivered are also major factors.  Some of this change is driven by the Affordable Care Act, some of it is not.  For example, one key driver mentioned relates to changes underway in the medical profession, such as young doctors preferring to work as employees of a hospital, rather than owning and running a medical practice themselves.

The multiple viewpoints voiced by the people testifying showcased how much disagreement there is among key stakeholders.  This left the legislators with much food for thought as they try to decide what action, if any, the state legislature might take in 2015.

Up next on November 20 – a hearing on the impact of hospital conversions to for-profit entities on local communities, employees and patients.  Five state hospitals are involved in such a process – Waterbury Hospital, St. Mary’s Hospital, Bristol Hospital, Manchester Hospital and Rockville Hospital.

The Bipartisan Round Table is scheduled to wrap up its hearings on December 18.  All of its proceedings are open to the public and information about past meetings and upcoming agendas is available on their web site.  Click here to learn more.  The November 6 meeting was also carried on CTN.

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