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$17 Million Deficit For UConn Health Center This Fiscal Year


March 03, 2009

Despite being bailed out three times by the legislature since 2000, the University of Connecticut Health Center is now running a deficit of nearly $17 million for the current fiscal year.

The Health Center is also forecasting deficits of $21 million in the fiscal year that starts July 1 and $30 million in 2010-11 if Gov. M. Jodi Rell's budget proposal is approved, according to UConn President Michael Hogan.

"The proposed budget for the UConn Health Center, if passed, puts us on a path for the closure of John Dempsey Hospital and the serious impairment, if not terminal blow, to the schools of medicine and dental medicine," Hogan said in recent written testimony to the legislature's budget-writing appropriations committee.

"The demise of these enterprises will, in turn, severely compromise health care services to Connecticut citizens, as well as the research enterprise at UCHC and vitality of all of UConn."UConn is pressing for a plan that would replace the aging Dempsey Hospital with a new $475 million complex to be run under a proposed partnership agreement with Hartford Hospital. The plan, UConn argues, is the best way to restore the center to fiscal health.

The shortfalls at the Health Center come from operating expenses, millions of dollars for pensions and benefits that are paid to state employees at Dempsey, and Rell's proposed cuts for Medicaid dental coverage for the poor, who receive their coverage at UConn clinics.

Sen. Toni Harp, the co-chairwoman of the legislature's influential budget committee, said she believes the state will continue to cover UConn's deficit in order to support the complex in Farmington that includes the medical and dental schools, as well as the hospital.

"I think we've got to pay it is the long and short of it," said Harp, D- New Haven, who has said publicly that she is "biased" for the center because her daughter graduated from the UConn medical school. "I think we're going to have to pay it. It's our only public hospital. We would consider it an investment."

With the fiscal year ending on June 30, the need for a cash infusion from the General Assembly becomes more likely because it is difficult to cut the budget when the year is nearly three-quarters finished. The school is seeking a "deficiency appropriation," meaning it is asking the legislature for cash to cover the deficit.

Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield said he hopes that UConn's deficit can be reduced through concessions made by state employee unions during the closed-door talks that are currently ongoing with the Rell administration. The "fringe benefit differential" means that the health benefits and pensions are far lower at the area hospitals that compete with Dempsey. Hogan says UConn's higher-benefit costs amount to $13 million in the first year of the budget and $14 million in the second year.

The answer to UConn's problems, McKinney said, is not the creation of a new hospital on the Farmington campus, the plan being pursued by UConn and Hartford Hospital. That plan, he said, is "simply one we cannot afford."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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