NORWALK, Conn. – The high cost of health care and the federal and state legislation written to address that problem is a large part of the reason Norwalk Hospital is becoming affiliated with Danbury and Milford hospitals, leaders said last week.
“We do believe that health care is too expensive and we want to be part of the solution,” said John M. Murphy, M.D., president and CEO of Western Connecticut Health, after signing paperwork to merge his organization with Norwalk’s Hospital’s parent organization, Norwalk Health Services Corporation.
The merger must go through regulatory approvals, which will take six to nine months, Norwalk Hospital CEO Dan DeBarbra said. “Until we get that approval, we’re limited in what we can do and what we can share, but there’s certain things we can start looking at and planing for,” he said.
Norwalk Hospital will continue to offer the “compassionate care” a community hospital can provide, he said, while offering more specialty care as it becomes part of a three-hospital system.
“I think independent hospitals are being challenged and we want to be able to continue the excellence that we currently provide and, in fact, raise the bar here,” he said, “and see if we can bring more to the table at a time when we think others may be reducing their services. This is all in the face of great regulatory change at the state level, at the federal level, even the private care level.”
The change is mandated by Obamacare, he indicated.
“I think if you read deeply into the law you’ll see the model needs to change to be successful,” he said. “We can anticipate reductions in reimbursements from Medicare, which is a federal program, so changes at the federal level have impacted us and will continue to do so.”
Health care premiums are making it harder for businesses to be competitive, Murphy said, adding that governments can’t afford them, either.
“I think the reality beneath of all of this is, as a country, we spend far too much on health care,” he said. “Eighteen percent of our GDP (gross domestic product) goes to health care. There is no other economically advanced country that is even close to that. … If you look at quality across the country, it is uneven. We don’t lead the pack. … I think the nation has essentially identified a problem, and that problem is we’re producing health care that nobody can afford.”
Combining the hospitals into a network will allow the consolidation of accounting, management and billing departments and let doctors focus on patient care, he said.
“I think this affiliation represents a thoughtful response of the reality that confronts the nation,” he said. “I think through this sort of affiliation we are going to remain in place for many, many years in our communities, whereas I think hospitals that stand alone are going to have a much harder time.”