As the new interim CEO of UConn Health, I testified on February 22 before the Connecticut General Assembly Appropriations Committee regarding our budget request for the next fiscal year. I highlighted the enormous good that UConn Health proudly does and achieves as a public service mission for our state.
However, I remain troubled and perplexed by the level of misunderstanding and faulty assumptions that continue to perpetuate regarding UConn Health, our mission, and our finances.
Here are some facts:
For nearly all state agencies, the state covers 100% of the cost of employee benefits, including so-called “legacy” costs, which are the result of the state playing catch-up to fund historical pension costs and of health which for years went without funding. But, unlike other agencies, the state does not fund these costs for UConn Health. Instead, we had to fund them ourselves (from clinical income, research grants, and student tuition). Fringe is a cost that UConn Health does not control with rates that we do not determine.
Due to the exponential growth of these marginal state costs in recent years, we can no longer afford to cover them for the state, so we ask the state to continue to bear a greater share of these costs. Some would like to present this as proof that UConn Health is in trouble and that asking the state to fund a greater share of marginal legacy costs (as is the case with most other agencies) is tantamount to looking for a ” bailout”. This is an inaccurate and grossly unfair characterization.
Some have even used this as a reason to question the very existence of UConn Health. It should be noted that each state in the country has a public health system. UConn Health is that system for Connecticut. We are a public body providing a public service. It is not unusual for a state agency to seek support from the state government to help fund the costs it faces, especially the state-determined costs that we do not control.
In January, if UConn Health did not have to pay incremental inherited state costs itself, we would have an estimated surplus of $8 million this year, thanks in large part to our $689 million in net revenue. self-generated for patients and faculty success. researchers providing competitive grants. And instead of an average fringe employee rate of 65% to 70%, it would be 35% to 40% — much closer to other state health systems.
That’s how big the impact of these legacy costs on UConn Health’s budget is.
In addition, every hospital and healthcare system should have a medical malpractice risk management program. UConn Health has established a trust fund to help cover expenses associated with malpractice. The state swept $20 million from that fund years ago to help fill the state’s budget shortfall, not associated with UConn Health. We are asking the State to bail out this fund. This is also described as a “rescue” in some circles, which it is not.
The best thing we can do to combat misunderstandings and misinformation about who we are and what we do is to rely on truth and facts to tell our story.
Speaking to the Credits Committee, I also noted:
- UConn Health generates $2.2 billion in overall economic benefits for Connecticut, supporting more than 10,000 jobs, and is the single largest producer of doctors and dentists in our state – our medical and dental schools have seen their enrollment increase by 30% over the past few years.
- Our hundreds of residents provide patient care at local hospitals and more than two dozen communities across the statebringing $137 million in federal funds to Connecticut to support their salaries and training.
- Our research revenue has grown every year for the past four years and now exceeds the record high of $170 million; our collaboration with Jackson Labs has resulted in joint grant applications that have garnered over $66 million in prize money and our biotech start-up incubator is at capacity with 36 different companies. This groundbreaking research is propelling innovative and promising therapies across all areas of healthcare, from the world’s first potential gene therapy cure for the life-threatening pediatric disease of glycogen storage disease (GSD) to a new drug reversing the growing epidemic of heart failure. Additionally, our researchers are even working to regrow a limb by 2030 to care for wounded warriors, children born without limbs, or other injured people.
- Clinical income at UConn Health has seen unprecedented growth over the past decade, from $326 million to an expected $689 million, which is half of our total budget. Our clinical care itself transforms the lives of patients, from those treated at the first and only dedicated comprehensive outpatient center of its kind in New England for the painful inherited condition of sickle cell disease to those who benefit of our surgeons’ unparalleled expertise in brain, spine and stoking surgery. In fact, our stroke center recently named a stroke center capable of advanced thrombectomy, the first of its kind in the Hartford area. Additionally, we were the first in the state to offer patients with severe emphysema a new valve to help them breathe better and the first in New England to offer breast cancer patients breast-conserving surgery. with the latest 3D navigation technology.
- And we provide patient care for everyone, all over Connecticut, in the upper and lower income brackets, including those who are severely economically disadvantaged and who have nowhere to turn but the public health system of their State.
All of this is the cornerstone of being a public service and an incredible asset to our state.
Bruce T. Liang, MD, is interim CEO of UConn Health