UVM Health Network pushes back against regulator’s budget cuts

Published: Sep. 23, 2020 at 6:22 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The leader of the UVM Health Network, Vermont’s largest health care network, is pushing back against state regulators, saying mandated budget cuts will put a further strain on access to patient care and make it more expensive.

In a letter to the Green Mountain Care Board Wednesday, CEO John Brumsted said he’s concerned that the budget review process has become “untethered from equitable, legal and financial principles.”

The push back comes after the board’s decision last week to cut back hospital budgets.

“We need the resources available to support our people so that we can provide care for everybody that comes to us,” Brumsted told WCAX.

UVM asked for approval of a $1.4 billion budget across the board. But the Green Mountain Care Board approved about $1.1 billion. The network asked regulators for an increase of 8.5% at Central Vermont Medical Center, 5.75% at Porter Hospital, and 8% at the UVM Medical Center. Instead, regulators approved 7% for CVMC, 4% at Porter, and 6% at UVMMC.

Brumsted NOW wants regulators to reverse budget cuts to Porter Hospital and he wants the board to reconsider how rate increases are determined. “We can’t plan around not knowing over the next year to 18 months what dollars are going to flow into our system,” he said.

The board is still in the budget process and is not allowed to comment on Brumsted’s letter. Its challenge is to make sure hospitals can set high enough rates to keep providing needed services while also containing runaway health care costs.

This all comes in a year in which the coronavirus pandemic has thrown hospital budgets for a loop. The pandemic forced hospitals to suspend elective procedures, which slowed down revenue. At the same time, they faced additional expenses for items like PPE. The financial strain across many of Vermont’s hospitals has been years in the making because of workforce challenges, more people using their services, and the rising cost of prescription drugs.

“There will undoubtedly be impacts, first on our people having to work harder to meet the need. And there may be difficulties with access to services,” Brumsted said.

The new fiscal year for hospitals begins on October 1. The GMCB officials say there will be another meeting next Tuesday to hear the UVM Health network’s concerns.

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