Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Behind the Headlines

Maybe you saw the headline on Saturday's Bulletin in a story above the fold, a Connecticut Mirror news service report on "State Upholds Hospital Tax." The tax is old news, dating back to 2011 when the Malloy administration already cash-strapped, offered it, arguing that a tax on hospitals would bring Connecticut more federal funding.

The theory as I understand it was: tax hospitals and redistribute the money collected back to the healthcare industry and Connecticut would generate federal matching funds through the Medicaid program that would increase the total amount of money available for healthcare.

I don't know about you but I did not stay at a Holiday inn Express last night so the whole idea sounds more like 'take six inches off the back of the blanket and sew it on the front and you'll make the blanket a foot longer.' I really hope I oversimplified that, but I don't think so.

I forgot to mention that the state, almost from the time the tax was imposed in 2011, began decreasing the amount of the collected money it returned to the hospitals which meant less, rather than more, federal matching funds.

And then, as times got tougher all over and budgets grew tighter here in The Nutmeg State, the tax rate for the hospitals went up but the reimbursement back to the hospitals got smaller.

I think a lot of us get uncomfortable when we are faced with the reality that healthcare is a business and like all businesses, it turns a profit or it turns to dust. The Beatles were right when they sang "All You Need Is Love," but prescription drugs cost money. So do diagnostic tools like magnetic resonance imaging and the talented people who operate those tools and the doctors and others who save lives on a daily basis.

I'll be the first to admit, it was not the most interesting story to ever appear on the front page and the more you read, the more your eyes sort of cross and the harder the whole thing gets to follow. You can be forgiven if, like me on Saturday morning, you saw the whole thing as an update on some kind of a tug of war between state government bureaucrats and hospital CEO's.

Except Saturday morning, after two sips of coffee but before her cereal, my wife and the mother of our two children, complained of chest pains that, she said, felt very much like the pains she had experienced in early June last year when she had suffered a heart attack.

We live about a four-minute drive from Backus Hospital in Norwich and were in the emergency room in a little under two minutes probably because the road is all downhill and there was a tailwind.

Everyone at Backus Hospital, from S., the paramedic, to W., the registered nurse, to Doctor P., the emergency room physician, and Doctor B., the hospitalist, through to Dr. L., the cardiologist, were everything she, and we needed at exactly the moment we needed them.

Money can't buy you good health, but it can help pay for good hospitals and the people who work in them and we have those here in Connecticut. They shouldn't be a cash cow for a profligate state government to milk every time it lives beyond its means.
-bill kenny

 

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