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November 16, 2017

Policymakers eye legislative action to address HHC-Anthem stalemate

PHOTO | Contributed House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz

In the wake of the Hartford HealthCare-Anthem contract standoff, Connecticut's top two Democratic legislative leaders said they may call lawmakers into special session to introduce legislation that would require hospitals and health insurers to go to binding arbitration to help resolve disputes.

State Senate President Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven) said Thursday he is talking today to House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz (D-Berlin) to see if there is bipartisan support to move that legislation forward "sooner rather than later."

Meantime, several consumer advocates have scheduled a 2 p.m. press conference today to urge both parties to resolve their contract dispute.

Ted Doolittle, the state's Healthcare Advocate, Frances Padilla, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of CT, and Tom Swan, director of CT Citizen Action Group, are also expected to call for legislative action.

Hartford HealthCare confirmed Thursday that its CEO Elliot Joseph rejected Anthem's proposal to send their contract dispute to an independent mediator, but provided a counteroffer and has not yet received a response.

In a statement circulated to the media, Elliot wrote: "... our analysis shows Anthem invests 20 percent less here than it invests in New Haven and other states. So much less, in fact, that if Hartford HealthCare continues to accept these low payments, we won't be able to sustain the breadth of services we currently provide."

Anthem did not return requests for comment. Anthem has said, however, that HHC has requested a rate increase that is two to three times the rate of inflation, which it deems unacceptable.

The contract between HHC and Anthem expired Oct. 1. As a result, Hartford HealthCare patients who have Anthem insurance coverage must pay higher, out-of-network rates for most care at a Hartford HealthCare facility. HHC owns a number of hospitals including Hartford Hospital, The Hospital of Central Connecticut and MidState Hospital, among others.

Looney said previous standoffs over the years with HHC, Anthem and United HealthCare led to legislative proposals that were dropped because the parties resolved the matter, but the situation with Anthem and HHC has become protracted and hurtful to patients.

"I think it is absolutely essential that we do this because the public interest is really involved here," Looney said, referring to possible legislative action. "Since the contract expired there have been people who have really suffered severe problems, especially those suffering from chronic conditions, taking expensive medications or facing major surgeries."

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