OP-ED | Obamacare, Malloy Budget: Hazardous to Connecticut’s Health, Hospitals
Three months into Obamacare and Gov. Dannel Malloy’s prescription for state hospitals, the combination has proved hazardous for those seeking coverage for what ails them. The disastrous rollout of the Obamacare program has been widely reported, what with the website melt-down, the sticker shock of higher premiums, loss of existing coverage and dislocation from current doctors.
The repercussions will ripple through the healthcare system for years. Next up: watch for a worsening of the nationwide doctor shortage as Medicaid rolls spike and physicians decide they can no longer afford to treat these new patients due to diminished reimbursement rates.
Medicaid rates are roughly 40 percent less than for private insurance reimbursements.
Oct. 1 was also the day that state hospitals had to officially begin accounting for Malloy’s $550 million cut in revenue. Most hospitals set their budgets to coincide with the federal fiscal year. Hospitals warned that the cuts would cause layoffs and force changes in delivery of services. Both charges proved true. Hundreds have lost their jobs to date from Sharon Hospital to Greenwich to Johnson Memorial.
And now we are experiencing the first major state hospital strike, at Lawrence & Memorial in New London, since 1986. L&M officials have insisted that the hospital has to change the way it does business because of changes at the national level involving federal reimbursements for services, and because of changes at the state level, or “Malloycare.”
The governor needed the $550 million this year to balance his budget. He took the money via a complicated tax scheme and told hospitals they could make do without the funds.
Democratic lawmakers and officials rushed to New London to take the focus away from the real problems hospitals and acute care facilities are facing in this Grave New World of healthcare, to instead practice Democratic-union politics. All the usual faces posed for photographs and, in full throttle before microphones recently in New London, stood with union leaders and members to denounce the hospitals for daring to react to costly state and federal mandates.
Malloy said L&M was abusing its workers; the workers demanded guaranteed employment regardless of any changes in federal or state funding.
The strike was predictable and avoidable. Had both sides agreed to continue talks absent strike threats the system could have functioned while the negotiations proceeded. Instead, hundreds walked picket lines, replacement workers were brought in and then the hospital locked out the strikers who promised to file for unemployment benefits.
As one union official proudly proclaimed to the gathered union masses outside the hospital on Montauk Avenue, “You will be paid for not working.’’
What a great system.
Meanwhile, back on planet earth, average Connecticut residents are experiencing their version of the hell that is Obamacare. It is true that Connecticut did not have the same problems in navigating the website because ours was constructed and maintained at the state level. But an estimated 60,000 people here are likely to lose their coverage and be forced into the so-called healthcare insurance exchanges. For them, the President’s promise that if they liked their coverage, they could keep it — period — proved false.
Their coverage, for single young people, working families and the elderly was deemed “sub-par,’’ by faceless bureaucrats, not healthcare professionals.
That “period,” repeated over and over by President Obama, should have come with an ellipse.
There is a myth that Connecticut has successfully enrolled more people on its exchange compared to all other states. The truth is that beginning two years ago we began expanding Medicaid coverage in advance of the Oct. 1 start date for Obamacare. Now we have 50,000 more people within the welfare state who receive Medicaid coverage via the expanded qualifying guidelines.
As of Dec. 20, 47,000 people had signed up through the state portal, but nearly half of them are on Medicaid.
The upheaval in our healthcare system has been painful for many patients, workers, and families. The L&M labor discord will eventually be resolved, but it is likely fewer people will be employed at the facility.
Next year the waves of change that individuals have experienced in losing their insurance coverage and paying higher rates will strike small businesses. The howling will continue.
Dr. Jeffrey Rabuffo is a retired urologist living in Higganum.