The vast majority of Connecticut voters are unaware of a new 6 percent provider tax levied on same-day procedures and surgeries performed at ambulatory surgery centers, but most who learn of the tax oppose it, according to a poll released this week.
When polled earlier this month by Connecticut Citizens for Affordable Health Care (CCAHC), a new coalition that aims to preserve community access to community-based surgical care, 79 percent of people in the state didn’t know the tax was implemented as part of the most recent state budget.
The tax, to be paid by service providers, is threatening to push 25 percent of Connecticut ambulatory surgery centers into operating at a financial loss, according to CCAHC.
Once they were told about the tax, according to the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they disapprove of it and 84 percent said they believe taxing same-day procedures or surgeries is “wrong.”
The CCAHC poll included responses from 400 general election voters in Connecticut, who were polled either by phone or online between Oct. 6 and Oct. 13.
Ambulatory surgery centers perform same-day, outpatient procedures and surgeries. They typically treat only patients who have already seen a health care provider and chosen surgery as the right treatment for their condition.
Many such centers specialize in ophthalmology, plastic surgery, orthopedic and pain management procedures, according to the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association trade group.
The new tax will cost both patients and health care providers, according to Susan Bojka, administrator at the North Haven Surgery Center. The center specializes in general surgery, gynecology and plastic surgery, among other areas.
“This new ‘double tax’ on our centers, which already pay sales and local property taxes, could mean closures, cutbacks, and staff layoffs, which would force patients to undergo their surgical procedures at more expensive surgery settings,” Bojka said in a statement. “We are asking our elected officials to recognize the flawed nature of this tax, and promptly repeal it, for the benefit of patients, taxpayers and our health care system.”
Ambulatory surgery centers in Connecticut performed 210,000 procedures in 2013, according to CCAHC, which said the centers usually provider more affordable care than patients’ other options.
According to CCAHC, Medicare and other health plans, on average, reimburse ambulatory surgery centers at a rate of 55 percent of the amount paid to hospital outpatient departments. That saves patients, health insurers, employers and taxpayers money, said the group, noting that centers generated $7.5 billion in federal Medicare savings between 2008 and 2011.
“Ambulatory Surgery Centers, and the same-day care provided by their surgical teams, are incredibly important to patients across the state,” Dr. Charles Adelmann, medical director at the Surgical Center of Connecticut, said in a statement. “The results of this poll simply reinforce what we already know – patients are happy with the cost-effective care and value we provide, and do not want to be forced into other settings or see their healthcare costs increase as a result of this onerous tax.”
The 400 people polled were relatively evenly split gender-wise – 55 percent women, 45 percent men. Their political affiliations roughly reflected Connecticut as a whole. Of those polled, 40 percent identified themselves as Democrats, compared with 24 percent who said they are Republicans and 32 percent to either identified themselves as “independent” or wouldn’t say.