Meriden legislator pushing bill to prevent state from diverting hospital payments

Meriden legislator pushing bill to prevent state from diverting hospital payments

HARTFORD — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pushing legislation that would prevent the state from diverting payments away from hospitals in the future.

State Rep. Catherine Aber­crombie, D-Meriden, and Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, spoke Wednesday in support of a bill before the legislature’s Human Services Committee that would require the state to reimburse hospitals. Earlier this month, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy suspended about $140 million in payments to acute-care hospitals in the state, citing budget difficulties.

“You have a lot of support in this building,” Aber­crombie told hospital work­ers 
and members of the Conn­ect­icut Hospital Association 
gathered at the Capitol Wed­nesday. “It’s not just words, but we’re going to put some meaning behind those words.”

Abercrombie serves as co-chairwoman of the Human Services Committee, which is expected to vote Thursday on whether to advance the pending bill.

“If we don’t pay you what we owe you, you don’t pay us the taxes that you owe us,” she told members of the hospital association.

In 2011-12, hospitals started paying a providers tax to the state based on an agreement that a portion of the tax would be reimbursed by the state and federal matching funds. This year, the industry was budgeted to pay $556 million in taxes and receive $256 million in reimbursements. A portion of funding was cut during December’s special session. To date, the industry has only received about $22 million in reimbursements. The state owes the industry about $31 million, while the remaining $109 million being withheld is from the federal government. But because Malloy suspended payments to the industry, the state hasn’t applied for the additional federal funds.

“I think, in these difficult times, it’s really irresponsible for us to leave the federal money that’s on the table right now,” Abercrombie said.

Malloy has said the payments are being held temporarily until the legislature comes up with a solution for the $220 million budget deficit. The money should be released immediately, Abercrombie said.

“The longer we wait, the longer it takes for us to get the money,” she said.

This issue of holding back payments to hospitals has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Dante Bartolomeo, D-Meriden, and two of her Senate colleagues are distributing a petition asking that the governor release the funds.

Legislative leaders and the governor met Wednesday morning to discuss the budget. Fasano told hospital officials that the mindset among leaders “is to do what we can do to get you the money.”

“We’re going to make every effort for that to happen,” he said.
Twitter: @Andyragz


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