In October, the state of Connecticut implemented a 6 percent provider tax on same-day surgeries at ambulatory surgery centers. Although this misguided and widely opposed tax is relatively new, patients, taxpayers and the state’s health care system will soon begin to feel it.
As a physician at an ASC facility in Norwich, I fully understand the tremendous impact this tax will have on ASC patients and their access to the high-quality, cost-effective, community-based surgical care centers like mine offer.
Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut citizens have received same-day surgical care provided in ASCs, which include many of the same noninvasive procedures performed in hospitals, but at a more affordable price and with fewer delays. Patients generally prefer ASCs because of their convenience, affordable services, shorter wait times for care and commitment to providing the same or better outcomes than hospitals. Nationally, ASC patient satisfaction rates are at 90 percent.
Unfortunately, our patients’ facility preference and our commitment to their care are threatened by this flawed tax. Many Connecticut’s ASCs soon will be operating at a loss, risking center closure and therefore forcing patients to relocate and undergo surgical procedures at a less affordable and accessible hospital setting.
This tax’s threat to the benefits provided by our facilities will not only be felt by our patients, but the health care system and taxpayers across Connecticut.
ASCs provided care to more than 150,000 patients and performed 200,000 skilled procedures in 2014 alone, while also providing employment for approximately 2,000 Connecticut residents. These figures illustrate the value we add to our state’s health care system as well as our state’s economy. Simply put, we offer needed health care jobs to skilled professionals and ensure lower costs for taxpayers.
On average, Medicare and other payers reimburse ASCs at approximately half the rate of hospitals’ outpatient departments, resulting in lower deductibles, copayments and coinsurance for patients and families. Even so, these savings go beyond that. National data shows that the care provided by ASCs generated $7.5 billion in federal Medicare savings, creating a lasting and positive impact for our health care system and taxpayers.
Connecticut voters recognize why this tax is wrong for our state’s patients, health care programs and taxpayers. In fact, a statewide poll found that 80 percent of Connecticut voters object to the 6 percent ASC tax and want it repealed.
Last, it must not be overlooked that the new 6 percent tax on ASCs is only one among a host of state and property taxes our centers already pay, essentially creating a “double tax” on the quality care we deliver.
Fortunately, lawmakers in the General Assembly have recently taken bipartisan steps towards repealing this tax. Their current efforts are greatly appreciated, but others should join their colleagues and recognize that this misguided tax negatively affects patients and will increase our state’s health care costs over time.
As part of the Connecticut Citizens for Affordable Health Care — a broad coalition of health professionals and patient advocates seeking to preserve patient access to community-based surgical care — I urge our state lawmakers to put our state’s patients’ needs first and ensure access to the quality, safe and cost-effective care ASCs offer.
Dr. Rick Martin practices at River Valley Ambulatory Surgery Center in Norwich.