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VIEWPOINT: Politician-controlled hospitals will lose millions; cuts in services and care looming

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Legislation moving its way through the Delaware General Assembly (HB 350) to put paid political appointees in control of our state’s nonprofit hospitals is not what the doctor ordered.

Delaware Healthcare Association President & CEO Brian Frazee | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE HEALTHCARE ASSOCIATION

This proposal will immediately slash $360 million from our adult acute care hospitals and the politician-controlled oversight board it creates can make even more cuts. The reduction is due to an arbitrary 250% Medicare cap on commercial reimbursement provision contained in the bill.

What does that actually mean?

An immediate $360 million cut that will slash hospital services, up to 4,000 hospital jobs, specialty care, quality, and community programs. It will halt expansion of services which also impacts construction jobs and other trades that are critical to enhancing our healthcare infrastructure and access.

Limiting hospital resources to recruit and retain top doctors and nurses will risk healthcare quality and access in the First State. This also will exacerbate the healthcare provider shortage in Delaware at a time when our aging population demands more, not fewer, healthcare providers. As the state with the fifth-oldest population in the country, Delaware will be plunged into a healthcare crisis.

Those cost caps in the bill also put at risk the recent historic collaboration between Delaware hospitals and policymakers for Delaware’s Medicaid program to receive more than $100 million in federal dollars by establishing a new state provider assessment.

The funding is meant to bolster efforts at improving access, workforce recruitment and retention, behavioral health services, and health equity. The 250% of Medicare cap proposed in HB 350 would lower the average commercial rate paid to hospitals far too much to make the contemplated model work.

Clearly, the provider assessment negotiations show hospitals know how to work collaboratively with policymakers for the good health of Delawareans.

Any serious plan to maintain patient quality and access to healthcare while containing inflationary costs requires insurers, government, practitioners, labor, medical device and pharmaceutical companies to work together on collaborative solutions.

Being on the front line of delivering public health, the member hospitals and health systems that DHA represents respect our obligation to be central to healthcare solutions for the public. With that in mind, we came to the table with meaningful alternatives that address healthcare affordability, enhance transparency and establish a collaborative effort to identify real solutions to our shared concerns.

Unfortunately, we simply did not have adequate time to engage in a meaningful stakeholder process on a massive healthcare policy.

Every resident of Delaware should be as shocked as we are that legislative leaders are instead continuing to risk public health by pushing the badly flawed healthcare control provisions in HB 350. If Delaware is willing to put paid political appointees in charge of the oversight of the state’s largest private-sector employer, what industry is next?

This is not what the doctor ordered. There is a better way, and we stand ready to work together to address our shared concerns and put Delawareans first.

Brian Frazee is president & CEO of the Delaware Healthcare Association, which represents the First State’s hospitals, health systems, and healthcare-related organizations. 

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