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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Criticism, support intensify for Malloy action suspending L+M-Yale-New Haven affiliation

    New London — State Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, is urging Lawrence + Memorial Healthcare and Yale-New Haven Health System to launch a court challenge to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order suspending the affiliation of the two hospitals at least until 2017, on the grounds that the governor has exceeded his authority.  

    “We have a process in place that people should be able to rely upon,” Fasano said Tuesday. “The parties have put a lot of time and money into this process, and now the governor believes he has the authority to ignore the law and tell an administrative proceeding to do what he wants them to do. That’s very scary.”

    Fasano added that he has not been supportive of Yale-New Haven expanding its already large network to L+M, but believes that the current process, initiated in the fall when the two hospitals applied to state regulators for approval for the affiliation, should be allowed to proceed through to a decision.

    To do otherwise is unfair, he said. Fasano said he believes pressure from health care workers’ unions influenced Malloy to issue the executive order as the OHCA was getting close to a decision.

    Heather Somers of Groton, the Republican candidate for the 18th District senate seat, also criticized Malloy’s action, saying it threatens L+M’s survival, which is critical to all of southeastern Connecticut.

    Democratic legislative leaders, including Sen. Terry Gerratana of New Britain, however, are applauding the governor’s action.

    “I believe it was within his authority,” she said.

    Gerratana is co-chairwoman of the Public Health Committee and assistant majority leader.

    Unions representing workers at both L+M and Yale-New Haven also support the action, and will be voicing their views at a community forum Thursday. according to Matt O'Connor, spokesman for AFT, the union that represents L+M workers.

    Malloy last week announced an executive order creating a task force to review and recommend reforms to the state process in which mergers, acquisitions and affiliations of hospitals are decided.

    Called the Certificate of Need process, it is overseen by the state Department of Public Health’s Office of Healthcare Access, which is under the state Department of Social Services.

    L+M spokesman Mike O’Farrell said that both hospitals are “looking at all possibilities” in response to the governor’s action, and remain committed to the affiliation as the best way to strengthen both hospitals.

    The L+M-Yale-New Haven affiliation application is the only one pending with OHCA that is being put on hold as a result of the executive order, according to Christopher Stan, spokesman for OHCA.

    The order applies to hospital networks with greater than 20 percent of the state’s health care market such as Yale-New Haven.

    Both hospitals can continue to submit information to OHCA in response to questions about the application, but no decision will be made until after the task force completes its analysis in December.

    The Connecticut Hospital Association, which also objected to the governor’s action, is also considering a response, but has not yet made a decision, said Michele Sharp, spokeswoman for the association.

    O’Farrell said the affiliation remains the best way for L+M to face increasing financial challenges and remain viable.

    The governor’s office, in response to criticism of the executive order, defended the action as necessary to protect consumers.

    “When just a handful of hospitals take over the entire marketplace, residents have fewer choices, and quality of care declines as cost rises,” he said in a statement. “The market in Connecticut needs balance — it shouldn’t be dominated by a handful of huge wealthy hospitals, with CEOs making millions and millions per year in salaries, gobbling up smaller ones. It’s about protecting care for the consumer and ensuring that we don’t sacrifice quality for residents who need it.”

    The governor’s office noted that both Unite Here Local 34, which represents workers at Yale University, and AFT, which represents L+M workers, supported the governor’s decision as one that protects the public from hospital and physician monopolies.

    The presidents of the three unions at L+M all said the proposed affiliation would drive health care costs higher.

    “New London already faces tremendous economic challenges,” said Harry Rodriguez, president of the health care workers' Local 5123. “Twenty percent of families in the city live below the federal poverty line. The last thing our community needs right now is to pay more for their health care.”

    The public forum, at the Weller Center at Mitchell College, is being hosted by about 20 union, consumer and health care advocacy groups.

    Matt O’Connor, spokesman for AFT, said the forum was planned before the governor’s announcement.

    “The purpose is to get lots of folks together who we believe share our concerns and to let their voices be heard,” he said. “We want to continue the discussion.”

    State Sen. Gerratana said she and other members of the Public Health Committee have also been concerned about the trend for larger hospital networks in the state.

    Research in Connecticut and other states shows the result of larger networks is rising health care costs and service cuts, she said.

    “The price of health care goes up. We are very mindful of that,” she said.

    The committee, she said, has heard complaints about services cut at Windham Hospital after it became part of the Hartford HealthCare network, which also includes The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.

    “The governor is looking at health care systems becoming larger and larger, and feels that it’s time for comprehensive reform,” she said. “It’s appropriate for the governor to ensure that state laws don’t tip in favor of larger and larger systems and higher costs.”

    j.benson@theday.com

    Twitter: @BensonJudy

    If you go:

    What: Community forum on proposed affiliation of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Yale-New Haven Health System

    When: 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday

    Where: The Weller Center at Mitchell College, New London

    Admission: free

    More information: http://aftct.org/node/62562?can_id=ba00759fa5fd03d2b15b7ccff44e1391&source=email-time-out-on-the-take-over-of-our-community-hospital&email_referrer=time-out-on-the-take-over-of-our-community-hospital&email_subject=time-out-on-the-take-over-of-our-community-hospital&link_id=1

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