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January 31, 2024 | The Policy Action Team of the Capital Area Healthcare Partnership held a legislative breakfast on 1/19. It was well attended by healthcare employers and healthcare public partners. The event was a success in bringing attention to the importance of the partnership with government and the interconnectedness of public policy on the healthcare industry. Additionally, we were so fortunate to have the attention and thoughtful input from Senator Lisa Seminara, State Representative Tom Delnicki, and State Representative Mike Demicco. It was wonderful to see the networking that took place before and after the discussion.

This event reinforced the importance of engaging in meaningful dialogue with legislators on the challenges faced by healthcare providers, as well as opportunities to strengthen the industry overall. Healthcare leaders shared stories on how the current reimbursement rates negatively impact their ability to recruit and retain staff, provide livable wages, and compete with organizations that can pay a bit more. Millions of dollars are spent on temp agency staff as organizations struggle to maintain acceptable staffing levels. Those that cannot afford to pay high agency costs are forced to close services, significantly impacting access to care for the community.

Critical points were raised around the rate studies that are conducted, the process by which reimbursement rates are determined, and whether the rates calculated are the ones that are provided. There was a strong call to action for increasing Medicaid rates to enable providers to offer a livable wage to their workforce and to cover the costs for the services provided. It was stressed that any increase cannot be a one-time event; rather, there should be a variable scale that accounts for the setting and incremental increases of rates over costs.

Participants agreed on the urgency of investing in the future of healthcare through a multi-pronged approach, which includes an apprenticeship model facilitated by trade associations. This model would integrate education, training, and financial resources but currently faces a funding gap. More discussion and collaboration with the Department of Labor and other State Departments would be important as we work towards solutions.

The conversation also brought to attention the interconnectedness of gainful employment with housing, transportation, and childcare services, as well as the opportunity for economic development, economic churn, and the possibility of equity and inclusion for a good portion of the healthcare workforce. All should have a seat at the table when discussing workforce development.

Overall, the gathering highlighted the critical need for legislative support and adequate funding to ensure the sustainability of the healthcare industry in Connecticut, with a focus on jobs with livable wages, workforce challenges, the impact of Medicaid rates, and a robust workforce development program.