ACA topic for discussion
SHARON – It was no surprise that part of the discussion during U.S. Rep. Elizabeth H. Esty’s visit to Sharon Hospital on Wednesday focused on the Affordable Care Act.
Esty, a Democrat from Cheshire who represents the 5th District, met with CEO Peter Cordeau, CFO Christian Bergeron, chief of nursing Lori Puff and other staff members as part of her daylong tour of the Northwest Corner. She also stopped at Geer Village in Canaan and walked a section of the Appalachian Trail in Falls Village.
She said the latest reconfiguration of a health care act that the Trump administration is proposing as a replacement for the ACA is not any better than the first one, which failed to receive approval by Congress. She called it “a tax reduction for wealthy people.” She said it aims to cut Medicaid and Medicare through block grants.
“I have a hard time understanding how it will get Senate votes,” she said. “It goes further to satisfy the (GOP’s) Freedom Caucus, so it will be harder to pick up the moderate vote.”
She noted that rural hospitals, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and other groups do not support the plan.
“It’s really a tax reform bill masquerading as a health care bill,” Esty said. “I think it’s an irresponsible way to go forward. It’s been rushed through.”
A final plan must be in place by September.
During Wednesday’s session, Cordeau talked about the upcoming sale of Sharon Hospital to Health Quest of New York, which will return it to nonprofit status. In 2002, the hospital was bought by Essent Healthcare of Tennessee, making it the state’s first for-profit facility. It was then made part of Regional Health Care during an acquisition.
The certificate of need process is almost complete. The hearing has closed and the sale is expected to be completed by July 1.
“I hear from everyone how incredible it is to have this facility here,” Esty told Cordeau.
The 78-bed hospital is the only one that serves rural Northwest Connecticut, and eastern sections of New York’s Dutchess and Columbia counties. Residents have long noted how critical it is to have a hospital in the region, but it has been difficult to manage the finances.
“The taxes are tough,” Cordeau said, explaining the hospital pays $3.1 million to the state, and gets about $2.5 million back in Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement.
“Just look at our volumes,” he added. “We’re tiny. On a good day, we get five or six patients. To be able to break even with 450 employees, we do pretty well, but it’s difficult.”
The sale to Health Quest offers a host of opportunities to provide more medical services locally, Cordeau said.
When Esty asked about Sharon Hospital’s behavioral services, Cordeau said it operates one of only three senior behavioral centers in the state. Currently containing 12 beds, the wing is being expanded to 17.
Esty took a tour of the radiology area, emergency department and intensive care unit. She met nurses in the ICU, where the bouquets of flowers she saw were a recognition of Nurses Week.