A new “double tax” in the health care industry is being seriously reconsidered by the state legislature.

Lawmakers are currently debating a bill that would repeal the new provider tax on ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs). Last year, a 6 percent provider tax was placed on these centers which provide same-day, low-cost, high-quality outpatient surgical care.

All these centers already pay many taxes including the sales tax and property tax, but last year the new tax was added.

This year, lawmakers are beginning to realize that this ‘double tax’ hurts these centers to the detriment of the patients they serve and the affordable care they provide.

I oppose this tax, and was glad for the opportunity to share my opinion this week testifying before the General Assembly in support of a proposal to phase out this new burden.

ASCs were established as a cost-effective alternative to hospitals for surgical procedures. In 2013, ASCs performed 210,000 cost-effective surgical procedures in 47 centers across the state. These centers play a vital role in our state’s health care market. They provide affordable care outside of hospital settings in local communities.

Adding more burdens to ASCs, like the provider tax, strains the amount of services they provide, inhibits their ability to expand into underserved communities, and results in more people needing to go to hospitals for services that otherwise could have been provided in an ambulatory surgical center.

I recently toured an ASC in Hartford where I learned more about how these centers provide such high-quality care so efficiently. I got to meet the people who prep the rooms for surgery, care for patients during procedures, clean up rooms after surgery, and move patients to recovery. I was surprised to find out that it is the same team of people who perform all these tasks, a measure that leads to cost savings and proficiencies.

I learned that the centers operate on very thin margins to keep patient costs down. Surgical procedures performed at ambulatory surgery centers cost payers an average of 55% less than what is paid to hospital outpatient departments for the same services. For example, an ACL surgery at a hospital could cost approximately $6,705 based on Medicare rates. That same procedure would be almost half the cost, averaging $3,600, at an ambulatory surgery center.

Phasing out the new provider tax by reducing it by 2% each year will provide much needed relief for ASCs while easing the revenue impact on the state in a tough budget year. In addition, helping people access more affordable health care in conveniently located centers will help us build a healthier state, thereby relieving pressure on the need for future social services and saving money in the long-run.

I believe our state should be working to make sure these centers continue to thrive and offer health care to people across the state. That’s why I’m supporting House Bill 5493 to repeal this ‘double tax.’

What do you think? To share your thoughts on the proposal to phase out the tax on Ambulatory Surgery Centers, you can submit written testimony here:http://ctsenaterepublicans.com/2016/03/a-double-tax-we-should-get-rid-of-4/.

House Bill 5493 can be viewed at:https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/TOB/h/2016HB-05493-R00-HB.htm.

Sen. Kevin Witkos, Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore, represents the 8th District towns of Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury and Torrington. For more information visit senatorwitkos.com orwww.facebook.com/senatorwitkos.