The Senate gave final passage Monday to a bill that was high up on the largest healthcare union’s wish list.
The bill passed the Senate 24-11 and it requires any business that does more than $50,000 of business with one of the 154 for-profit nursing homes in the state to share their profit and loss statement with the state. The information would be available under the state’s Freedom of Information laws.
Three Republicans, Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney, who is also running for governor, and Sens. John Kissel and Kevin Witkos joined Democrats in voting in favor of the bill. After the vote, McKinney said he believed the state should have a full understanding of the finances of these contractors. “We are the guardians of public money,” he said.
Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, said it’s a way to ensure the state’s money is being spent wisely and “nursing home residents are protected.”
The state provides about $1.6 billion of taxpayer fund to nursing homes.
“We have an interest, as a state that’s providing so much funding to these nursing homes, to be able to assess the real financial condition of all the interrelated businesses,” Deborah Chernoff, public policy director for SEIU District 1199, said in testimony to the legislature.
She cited bankruptcy filings by nursing homes owned by two chains—Haven Healthcare, in 2007, and HealthBridge Management, in 2013 – as cases that highlight the need for financial transparency.
“Today’s vote sends a strong message to large, out-of-state, for-profit nursing homes that Connecticut is watching where its tax dollars go,” SEIU 1199 New England President David Pickus said. “With past abuses from certain large, out-of-state chains Connecticut needed to act.”
The Connecticut Association of Healthcare Facilities, headed by Matthew Barrett, pushed back against the effort saying nursing homes already report on related businesses in detailed reports filed with the Department of Social Services.
“It was conceded at the public hearing that the information has no value in terms of DSS [Department of Social Services] meeting its public duties and responsibilities in the setting of rates performing audits, or evaluating the financial condition of nursing facilities,” Barrett has said.
Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration has made giving SEIU District 1199 this bill, which has been in the background a long time, because it’s an election year.
“I questioned the legitimacy of the request. To some extent I would question the advocacy which has come from the administration,” Markley said. “I think there’s been a political calculation based in all of that.”
Markley offered an amendment that would have exempted these profit and loss statements from public disclosure. Some Senators believed this information would be used by the unions to give themselves a better negotiating position.
Markley said no where else is information like this required by state government. He said it assumes that people who are in business “merit this kind of treatment.”
The push for “transparency” comes as the number of nursing homes in the state dwindles because of financial pressures and a shift towards home-based care.
The House passed the bill last week.