An Investment Opportunity

By Stephanye R. Clarke

investment.jpgOn September 8, 2016, the Office of Health Care Access (OHCA) rendered its final decision, allowing for the acquisition of L+M Hospital (L+M) by Yale New Haven Health System (YNHHS).

As a member of one of the communities served by L+M, I was pleasantly surprised by the conditions imposed by OHCA as part of the acquisition. As a public health professional, I was optimistic about the many ways that this acquisition might improve the health of the community. Alas, that surprise and optimism has shifted to disappointment, as I have watched the decisions play out.

Investment in Improving Community Health

A most impressive, comprehensive Community Health Assessment was completed in 2016. The process was inclusive of many community voices and should be a model for the rest of the state. The data revealed several areas of concern, and led to the development of a Health Improvement Plan that highlights three priority areas (Mental Wellbeing and Substance Abuse; Healthy Lifestyles; and Access to Care).

Per the terms of the agreement, “… the Applicants [YNHHS and L+M] shall apply no less than a 1% increase per year for the next three (3) years towards the L+MH’s community building activities in terms of dollars spent…” Community members expected that would be a significant dollar amount. Instead, we were shocked to find out that this formula resulted in amounts that would total no less than $588.74, $594.63, and $600.57.

While attending a recent public forum, I heard the independent monitor along with YNHHS’s senior VP mention a commitment to the mission and infrastructure of L+M—specifically, this phrase was used, “the investment is real, the commitment is real.”

Men holding the question what. Concept 3D illustration.

Referring to less than $600 as the “floor” commitment that will increase only on the condition that the profit margin for the hospital increases is not a reflection of a real investment or commitment to population health. It is a clear statement that the work of the collaborative and the health of the community are of little value, despite the grand statements.

Hospitals in Connecticut report being under enormous strain, citing tax policies and low Medicaid reimbursements as major causes for concern.

I would still like to see the powers-that-be put their money where their mouth is and make a real commitment to improving the health of the communities they serve.

I’ll still be watching. We all will.

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