To the Editor:
Healthcare costs have long been a barrier for millions of people to quality and affordable care in our country. Earlier this year, a CNBC survey revealed that 58% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Roughly 70% of respondents said they feel stressed about their finances. Working class families are struggling daily to make ends meet. The high cost of health care is certainly one factor adding to the stress of strained household budgets. Unfortunately, recent trends in our nation’s health care industry are putting essential care even further out of reach for Connecticut patients.
As a Reverend, former City Councilmember and a professional in the mental health space, I’ve seen and heard the personal stories of people in our state who are struggling to afford medical services. The unaffordable costs of healthcare are a stumbling block for many people to achieve better health outcomes. Healthcare is a fundamental human right. This issue is not merely political; this is a deeply moral issue. We need the moral courage and political will to make significant changes to an overly complex healthcare system wherein many people are struggling to pay for the care necessary to live and live well. The current trend of healthcare costs is not a sustainable path forward. To begin correcting this disparity, we need to adequately address and weed out the root causes of why health care costs remain so high.
It’s becoming more apparent that hospital consolidation is a leading cause of these increased medical costs. When large hospitals acquire smaller, independent offices, they can then raise the prices at the newly acquired facilities simply because it has come under new ownership. Many patients are not notified of a change in price and only find out when they receive their bill. And consolidation is not an isolated trend – it’s happening all over the country. Between July 2012 and January 2018, hospital ownership of independent practices grew by 124%, and there are no signs of it slowing down.
I urge our lawmakers like Congressman John Larson and our entire delegation of federal leaders to support proposals that can address this issue. The Facilitating Accountability in Reimbursements Act (FAIR) would make a direct and positive impact. It promotes fair hospital billing practices that would ultimately lower out-of-pocket costs for consumers, helping to reduce some of the financial strain and worries associated with accessing quality health care. I’m glad to see that there have already been steps taken by Connecticut’s leaders to address unfair billing practices within our state. However, there is far more work to be done. All people deserve access to quality and affordable health care, and I believe the FAIR Act is one of several steps in the right direction to making this a reality.
Reverend Edward Ford Jr.