Highlights of Testimony on Reform Bills

Curated by Rosana Garcia and Max Friedman

2011/365/62 On The AirOn March 11, the Public Health Committee held a public hearing on bills addressing the rapid changes in the hospital and health care landscape in the state.

We reviewed extensive written testimony and brought you some highlights (see all submitted testimony here).  You can also see CT Mirror article on the hearing: In controversial health care bills, some agreement on transparency by Arielle Levin Becker.

Hearing Highlights:

From Jamie Stirling of Stirling Benefits, Testimony for HB 6938:

“While I generally do not favor government intervention in the private market, the hospital market is so out of balance, and so essential to a positive business climate, that I feel the state has a responsibility to step in to restore the common good.”

From Imam Kashif Abdul, Karim, Muhammad Islanic Center of Greater Hartford, Testimony Supporting SB 809, 810, 813, 815, 954 and HB 6938:

“Every…single Friday someone brings a hospital bill to me at the Mosque, a bill that their family cannot pay.  They ask for help from our community.  The bills are getting bigger and we are finding it harder and harder for our community to raise enough money to help them…

From Senator Looney and Senator Fasano’s Joint Testimony on Senate Bills 809-815 (As well as supporting SB 253, SB 249, SB 954 and SB 6938):

“The healthcare system is changing with blinding speed and we must be sure that these changes serve the interests of the residents of our state.  We owe it to the citizens of our state to do this thoughtfully and without partisan divide.”

You can also see information from the joint press conference Senators Looney and Fasano held:

Testimony Presentation (PDF) | Page from Senate Democrats | Page from Senate Republicans

From Pamela O’Donnell, Vice President for Local 34 UNITE HERE, Testimony on SB 809, 813, and 815

“We’re doing everything the experts tell us to improve our health and control our costs…but it will all be for nothing if we can’t get control of hospital prices.  At least in Southern Connecticut, the days of hospital competition are pretty much over.”

From Francois de Brantes, Executive Director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Testimony for SB 813

“Let’s stop pretending that we can measure the quality of care when we can’t and let’s explain, transparently, to consumers why we can’t.”

From Victoria Veltri, State Healthcare Advocate, Office of the Healthcare Advocate, Testimony on SB 809-813, 687, and 993

“In order to realize the promise of affordable, quality healthcare, and to stem the unsustainable trends in healthcare costs that our state and nation has seen, each person needs to be empowered to actively and effectively participate in their own healthcare, but the current landscape makes that very difficult for even the most sophisticated consumer to achieve.”

From Kevin Lembo, CT State Comptroller, Testimony on SB 809, 993, 810 and 813

(Press Release on Testimony)

“I would like to note that while the vertical consolidation of our health care system may not be resulting in significant proliferation of new locations charging facility fees, my office remains concerned that market concentration will drive health care costs higher…There is significant evidence that suggests hospital mergers lead to higher prices.”

State of CT Insurance Department, Testimony on SB 809-815

“We…have created a competitive health insurance marketplace that is more transparent, more responsive, and more vibrant than in many other states. But we can do more, and a more holistic approach will allow Connecticut an opportunity to begin to address the medical provider side of health care reform and make health care more efficient and cost effective for its citizens.”

From Jamie Stirling of Stirling Benefits, Testimony for HB 6938:

“While I generally do not favor government intervention in the private market, the hospital market is so out of balance, and so essential to a positive business climate, that I feel the state has a responsibility to step in to restore the common good…Health care delivery has changed over the years, and is now part of the common good, like roads and utilities.  Market forces cannot alone restore balance to this sector.  We need the State to help guide us back to the reasons we have hospitals, so that we can all, not just the large health systems, enjoy better fiscal, business and personal health.”

From Imam Kashif Abdul, Karim, Muhammad Islanic Center of Greater Hartford, Testimony Supporting SB 809, 810, 813, 815, 954 and HB 6938:

“Every Friday people come to pray at the Muhammad Islamic Center, just two blocks from here.  And every single Friday someone brings a hospital bill to me at the Mosque, a bill that their family cannot pay.  They ask for help from our community.  The bills are getting bigger and we are finding it harder and harder for our community to raise enough money to help them…

“I see the bills every week and there is no way to predict what care costs.  Such extreme differences in charges for the same procedure should not be allowed.  We need to get control of hospital expenses, but to do that we need to first know what they are…

“As Connecticut considers allowing corporations with an explicit profit motive to buy major hosptials we must also step up and protect the interest of patients and their families.  We need a more transparent, affordable, accessible system.”

From Senator Looney and Senator Fasano’s Joint Testimony on Senate Bills 809-815 (As well as supporting SB 253, SB 249, SB 954 and SB 6938):

“We have a daunting and yet invigorating task ahead of us in modernizing the regulation of our hospital and healthcare system.  If we get this right, we can greatly improve the health and healthcare options for our state.  The bills before you represent the beginning of that effort.  The healthcare system is changing with blinding speed and we must be sure that these changes serve the interests of the residents of our state.  We owe it to the citizens of our state to do this thoughtfully and without partisan divide.”

You can also see information from the joint press conference Senators Looney and Fasano held:

Testimony Presentation (PDF) | Page from Senate Democrats | Page from Senate Republicans

From Pamela O’Donnell, Vice President for Local 34 UNITE HERE, Testimony on SB 809, 813, and 815

“At Yale University, we’ve done all the right things.  Our employer has been responsible and worked on progressive solutions.  Out members have been responsible and willing to change.  We’ve achieved high quality of care and contained costs at the same time.

“But none of this matters if the hospital costs continue to skyrocket.  For years, our memebrs in Greater New Haven could choose between Yale-New Haven Hospital and the Hospital of St. Raphael.  Now an occasional few go to Milford, Griffin, or Mid-State, but everyone else has only one choice.

“We’re doing everything the experts tell us to improve our health and control our costs…but it will all be for nothing if we can’t get control of hospital prices.  At least in Southern Connecticut, the days of hospital competition are pretty much over.  You really can’t run a rpovder network with Yale-New Haven, which means high prices, and we have no way to measure if those higher prices buy better care for our members and their families.”

From Francois de Brantes, Executive Director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute, Testimony for SB 813

“We have been publishing a yearly national scoarecard on the transparency of price and quality infomration for each of the United States.  For the past two years, the State of Connecticut has received an F, and will again this year.  The proposed bill, as written, and if fully implmented, would likely not yield the State a grade much higher than a C.  Why is that?  First, consumer testing and research suggest that offering information on the price of individual services if of very limited utilizty outside of routine sick care expenses….Second, the Bill suggests the publication of quality measures associate to the services for which prices are published…there aren’t really any quality measures associated to medical services.…Let’s stop pretending that we can measure the quality of care when we can’t and let’s explain, transparently, to consumers why we can’t.”

From Victoria Veltri, State Healthcare Advocate, Office of the Healthcare Advocate, Testimony on SB 809-813, 687, and 993

“This series of proposed bills strives to address the complexities of Connecticut’s evolving healthcare system and the need for a robust, dynamic, transparent and sustainable model for the future. Transparency and consistency in healthcare costs are crucial to this goal…

“In order to realize the promise of affordable, quality healthcare, and to stem the unsustainable trends in healthcare costs that our state and nation has seen, each person needs to be empowered to actively and effectively participate in their own healthcare, but the current landscape makes that very difficult for even the most sophisticated consumer to achieve. Providing detailed information about the cost and quality of healthcare for consumers, offering consistent policy guidance that is based on a comprehensive understanding of market trends and streamlining expectations for providers all are important elements of an extensive and inclusive system of reform. Each by itself represents an important initiative, but each by itself cannot achieve these goals, but are integral pieces of a larger effort. These bills continue Connecticut’s initiative to realize the effective integration of our healthcare delivery and payment system while promoting consistency and transparency for all stakeholders, and affordable, sustainable healthcare system for Connecticut.”

From Kevin Lembo, CT State Comptroller, Testimony on SB 809, 993, 810 and 813

(Press Release on Testimony)

SB 809/933:

“I would like to note that while the vertical consolidation of our health care system may not be resulting in significant proliferation of new locations charging facility fees, my office remains concerned that market concentration will drive health care costs higher…There is significant evidence that suggests hospital mergers lead to higher prices.”

SB 810:

“Price variation has a significant impact on costs, especially in the context of a fee-for-service system in which there is little incentive for providers to consider costs when making referrals.

“It is hoped that as the reimbursement system continues to move toward shared savings and global payment models that the incentives will shift and patients will be referred to high-value providers – high quality, low cost – thereby improving the efficiency of our health-care system. The existing price variation results in an increased cost to the health-care system as a whole, resulting in higher costs for employers and individuals alike.”

SB 813:

“Adequate cost and quality information is essential in a world where we are asking patients to be directly involved in their care and providers to take on risk based upon the total cost of care for their attributed patients,” Lembo said.

In order for price and quality transparency to be effective, Lembo said such tools must be easy to understand – and consumers want cost and quality information that is specific to their circumstances.

“When done right, it allows patients to get the most value out of their health care dollars, improving outcomes and reducing costs,” Lembo said.

State of CT Insurance Department, Testimony on SB 809-815

“Over the last few years, the Department, this legislature and the state as a whole has focused primarily on insurance reforms as a means of making health insurance more accessible and more consumer focused. We believe our joint efforts as legislators and regulators have created a competitive health insurance marketplace that is more transparent, more responsive, and more vibrant than in many other states. But we can do more, and a more holistic approach will allow Connecticut an opportunity to begin to address the medical provider side of health care reform and make health care more efficient and cost effective for its citizens.

“The Department is supportive of concepts that further these goals. However, we do caution the legislature to be mindful of existing efforts including the State Innovation Grant and All-Payers Claim Database and to move forward in a coordinated fashion with all the relevant state agencies and legislative committees working collaboratively to avoid a duplication of efforts.”

Matthew Katz, Executive VP and CEO of CT State Medical Society, Testimony on SB 814:

“Senate Bill 814 is a critical piece of legislation that provides Connecticut’s community physicians with an important tool to remain in independent practice – the ability to form an accountable care collaborative. Physicians have been given a clear mandate: continue to improve the quality of health care delivered while at the same time reducing costs. For community physicians, this presents a multi-faceted challenge – how to invest in and adapt to new standards of care, reimbursement, and information exchange while striving to remain independent. SB 814 helps provide a solution to these problems.”

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One Response to Highlights of Testimony on Reform Bills

  1. Pingback: H is for Health | Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut

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