Battle between Connecticut hospitals, state turns to Bristol Hospital

A longstanding battle over the financial health of Connecticut hospitals has shifted focus to building plans proposed by Bristol (Conn.) Hospital, according to a report from The Connecticut Mirror.

The hospital plans to build a new medical office building and recruit staff. But Benjamin Barnes, Connecticut's budget director, questioned the plans, noting hospital partisans have warned state funding was necessary to keep from compromising the community's health and access to care, according to the report.

In a letter to Bristol Hospital President and CEO Kurt A. Barwis that was copied to state legislative leaders, Mr. Barnes wrote, "The obvious conclusion is that Bristol Hospital is using state government money in the form of Medicaid supplemental payments to finance construction of new facility expansions."

Mr. Barnes also questioned the need for another outpatient facility in the Bristol area, and asked Mr. Barwis to provide details in regard to the use of public funds in the development of the hospital's proposed new facility.

He concluded the letter by asking for assurances that, "your earlier pleas for those dollars were based on the full fiscal reality that your organization was facing and not just part of a public relations campaign to obtain more taxpayer funded expansions of your hospital."

Bristol Hospital called Mr. Barnes' letter inaccurate and said it "presents unfounded allegations and innuendo about the connection between state Medicaid funding and the project," which it said would be fully paid for by a private developer, according to the report.

Mr. Barwis also pointed out that the building project represents an effort to consolidate multiple physician offices into one location, rather than an expansion, according to the report.

According to the report, Mr. Barwis also said hospitals are in effect subsidizing the state's Medicaid program, since it pays them less than the cost of care.

Additionally, Mr. Barwis noted progress of the hospital's proposed building project was in question because the state has paid the hospital only about $800,000 of nearly $5.2 million in Medicaid supplemental funding it is supposed to receive under the current state budget.

"To keep providing services, if [the state doesn't] make these payments, we're going to have to reallocate any of the initial costs that will ultimately be taken care of by the developer into subsidizing the state Medicaid program," Mr. Barwis said, according to The Connecticut Mirror.

Mr. Barnes' letter comes about a month after Connecticut officials delayed approximately $140 million in payments to the state's acute care hospitals. The state suspended the payments after recent projections showed declining income tax receipts. Anticipated income tax revenues have been lowered by nearly $200 million for this fiscal year, according to Connecticut's Office of Fiscal Analysis.


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