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HomeHealthcareStriving to Balance a Growing Healthcare Duopoly

Striving to Balance a Growing Healthcare Duopoly

Since late last year, members of the local unions at UConn Health (UCH) have renewed efforts to both protect and expand the state’s only public medical center. Two leaders of our AFT Connecticut-affiliated UCHC-AAUP, Michael Baldwin, MD (right, in collage above) and Ion Moraru, MD, PhD (left), clarified shared objectives in a recent op-ed. Together they made a compelling case for elected officials to reject more privatization of the industry and “invest in, not divest from, quality public healthcare:”

UConn Health’s core value to Connecticut residents is well known. We are the largest source of new physicians, surgeons, and dentists for our home state. 70% of our medical school graduates practice here in Connecticut and more than 50% of the state’s dentists are alumni.

In addition, our patient safety and patient experience grades are the highest of any healthcare system in the state.

Click here for more on national recognition for UCH’s world-class acute care services.

However, many of our residents are not aware of the critical role the state’s sole publicly-owned health system plays by providing high quality care to all of Connecticut’s residents, regardless of whether a service is “profitable” or whether the patient is able to pay.

Not long ago, Connecticut had 27 independent community focused hospitals; now only six remain. Moreover, the two largest health chains control approximately two thirds of the entire healthcare market in the state. Massive healthcare systems, even if technically “non-profit,” are free to focus on revenue streams from the most profitable clinical services at the expense of less profitable services our communities’ healthcare needs.

Click here for a recent example of UConn Health’s charity care for underserved patients.

We provide the balance our state’s health system needs. We had the highest increase in percentage of gross revenue out of any health system in the state since 2020. We can, and we will, grow to further strengthen that success. John Dempsey Hospital at UCH, as we stand now, is often over capacity. We are currently waiting for a certificate of need (CON) approval to expand the number of in-patient care beds to accommodate our increasing number of patients.

The dominant systems need to face a growing and dedicated high quality competitor that is by its very nature driven by the mission of helping people achieve and maintain healthy lives, without prioritizing the financial bottom line. UConn Health’s key role as the people’s healthcare system must not only be preserved but expanded if we are to succeed in that mission.

Click here to watch several union members urge investments in UCH at a recent legislative forum.

We are fostering partnerships with our state’s dwindling number of independent hospitals and physician groups to increase our public service as a referral center for complex, critically-ill patients, building on our sterling reputation for high-quality care in the region. We are growing despite the fact that as a direct result of our public mission, UConn Health funds more than $100 million dollars per year in primary and subspecialty care for underinsured Connecticut residents who are either turned down or delayed by other providers.

We understand this financial figure. We live it every day (Baldwin is an associate professor in the Department of Radiology and Moraru is a professor in UCH’s Department of Cell Biology and the Center for Cell Analysis and Modeling). It’s a direct result of our mandate. The state coverage of revenue shortfalls is not a subsidy, but simply paying for the cost of the healthcare for our fellow Connecticut residents.

Click here for highlights of a recent labor coalition-organized town hall on UConn Health’s “public good.”

A private provider would have the liberty to stop critical services as “unprofitable;” if UCH did so, its balance sheet would be in the black overnight. But as a direct result, a number of our most vulnerable Connecticut residents would no longer have reliable and equal access to quality healthcare in our clinics, operating rooms, and hospital beds. This is contrary to the goals of a healthcare institution founded by, and owned by, Connecticut’s residents.

A vibrant UConn Health with robust clinical alliances with independent hospitals and physician groups will help provide balance for an increasingly consolidated healthcare system. We should invest in, not divest from, quality public healthcare in Connecticut.

Click here to share Baldwin and Moraru’s original published op-ed in The Courant with your legislative representatives.

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor
Communications Coordinator for AFT Connecticut, a labor federation of over 30,000 hard-working women and men in the Nutmeg State.

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