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Hospitals, Administration at Odds Over Budget Cuts

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes
Chion Wolf
Connecticut Public Radio

Connecticut Hospital Day at the Capitol drew more than 600 hospital workers to Hartford today. They were protesting Governor Malloy's proposed budget, which they say would cut state spending on hospitals by $550 million over the next two years. The cuts would include the payments hospitals get for treating the uninsured.

But on WNPR's Where We Live, the administration's budget chief Ben Barnes said he's not sure the plan should actually be called a cut. "In recent years," Barnes said, "hospitals have received very very large increases each year, so we've discontinued providing large increases but I think overall, we're looking at a flat-funding scenario over the next few years."

Barnes is Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. He said increases to the Medicaid program, and the coming Affordable Care Act, which should provide private insurance for millions of patients, will offset any reductions in some state payments. But Pat Charmel, President and CEO of Griffin Hospital said these cuts are real, and that a larger number of Medicaid patients will be felt on his hospital's bottom line. "Medicaid reimbursement rates actually don't cover the cost of care, so more enrollees, higher utilization actually creates a burden on hospitals," Charmel said.

Charmel told Where We Live that the administration is disproportionately cutting its payments to hospitals, and it could cost jobs and impact care. Barnes countered that the state's non-profit hospitals are actually very profitable - with most running positive margins - and may need to accept something his boss, Governor Malloy often says: "Change is hard."

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