Frank Coffey: High-quality health care requires careful financial support now

Frank Coffey: High-quality health care requires careful financial support now

This comment is from Frank Choffey of South Burlington, president of the Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation, a regional economic development organization.

Sometimes I think we take our health for granted. Until something goes wrong, we don’t tend to think about the amazing facilities and providers we have at our disposal.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has touched and awakened each of us in some life-changing way. Over the past several years, members of my family and close friends have had serious medical conditions that have resulted in the need to seek treatment and care at the University of Vermont Medical Center. In each of their situations, the medical care they received and the quality of care and treatment was life-changing, life-sustaining and compassionate.

In such a small state, we are so fortunate to have UVM Medical Center, the only Tier 1 academic medical center in Vermont and upstate New York, serving a population of 1 million people and taking care of all the health care needs of this almost exclusively rural area.

It is essential that we understand that keeping our medical center economically vital is critical to Vermont’s economic stability and to the health and well-being of Vermonters.

Recently, Governor Scott wisely and accurately summarized a major concern about the fragility of our health care system:

“Stabilizing our health care system is becoming increasingly urgent. Our health care system’s ability to provide access to affordable, timely, and quality care is very fragile as it emerges from the pandemic and faces the impact of delayed care, an aging population, a workforce crisis, and historically high inflation that is driving up the cost of supplies , energy and personnel. With all these factors, the system is at risk of significant disruption and instability.”

In the current environment, running a healthcare facility and system like UVM Medical Center is incredibly challenging, and our state and federal governments must step up to provide more financial support and assistance to ensure that financial stability is at the heart of providing access to quality care. A hospital should not be forced to use its reserves to subsidize operating costs and jeopardize its ability to make strategic and necessary investments in facilities, equipment and capacity building, and to maintain the retention and attraction of highly talented nurses. doctors, clinicians and providers.

UVM Medical Center’s recent actions have shown it is working to address both workforce and cost inflation threatening its sustainability. In its recent agreement with the union representing the nurses, UVMMC committed to investing $70 million in additional wages and other financial benefits to attract and retain full-time employees. This action clearly demonstrates the medical center’s foresight and its commitment to responsibly retain and attract the best providers and proactively address workforce challenges and cost inflation by moving away from reliance on traveling and temporary workers.

In our current health care system, budgeting is a mathematical equation, and the only place to go to increase revenue is to commercial insurers. The state of Vermont did not increase Medicaid hospital reimbursements for the current fiscal year, and Medicare is offering low or negative rate increases.

It is critical that state payers step up to the plate and cover their share of the cost, recognizing that the more we reimburse from Medicaid, the more we pull federal dollars to support Vermont’s delivery system.

In this region, we cannot separate the financial and political discussion about health care costs from the high-quality services we all expect to receive for ourselves, our loved ones, our employees and the community.

If we are to meet the needs of the people of this region, we must have a financially sound delivery system and great people providing care. An investment in our hospitals is an investment in our own health.

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Tags: Frank Cioffi , government payers , Greater Burlington Industrial Corp. , health care , invest now , UVM Medical Center

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