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Legislative session yields several positive outcomes for YNHHS, patients 

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Janine Eladawy, PA-C, Northeast Medical Group, recently conducted a telehealth visit with a patient. A new law extends less-restrictive guidelines for telehealth appointments that were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Connecticut’s 2021 legislative session, which ended June 9, included several bills and proposals related to Yale New Haven Health. 

Among the YNHHS priorities during this year’s session was House Bill (HB) 5596, An Act Concerning Telehealth. The bill supported extending less-restrictive guidelines for telehealth appointments that were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The measure allows healthcare providers and patients to communicate using a broader range of platforms and ensures that insurance companies pay providers the same amount for a telehealth visit as for an in-person appointment. Also under the mandate, a greater variety of healthcare professionals can conduct telehealth visits, from behavioral therapists to dentists. 

“Supporting the telehealth bill was a big priority for Yale New Haven Health,” said Kyle Ballou, vice president, YNHHS Community and Government Relations. “Many of our patients have found that connecting with their medical providers through video or telephone visits has been convenient, efficient and very beneficial, especially during the pandemic. It makes sense to continue to support these options, and we are pleased that our legislators agree.” 

Ballou, along with the Government Relations team, lobby throughout the year for legislation that will benefit and support YNHHS and its hospitals, patients and employees.

Other bills of particular interest that passed included Senate Bill (SB) 683, which addressed hospital billing and collection. The bill modifies selected hospital billing practices, prohibits collecting certain facility fees and requires the Office of Health Strategy to conduct a study on physician practices’ mergers and acquisitions. SB 956, providing medical assistance to individuals regardless of their immigration status, also passed.

SB 1, An Act Equalizing Comprehensive Access to Mental, Behavioral and Physical Health Care in Response to the Pandemic, passed, declaring racism a public health crisis. The bill’s many provisions include establishing a Commission on Racial Equity in Public Health. A provision that would have mandated nurse-to-patient ratios in hospital intensive care units was deleted from the bill.

“Generally, Yale New Haven felt that staffing ratios should be based on patient acuity rather than numbers, and that our clinical professionals are best equipped to determine appropriate staffing levels for our patients, versus a state mandate,” Ballou said.

A major milestone in this year’s session was the unanimous, bi-partisan passage of a biennial state budget. The $46.3 billion plan closes deficits and creates a surplus. Specifically related to hospitals and health care, the budget increases PILOT (Payments In Lieu of Taxes) to municipalities, increases Medicaid reimbursement rates and increases funding to selected health and human services agencies.

Among the bills that did not pass this session was SB 1048, which would have required equal reimbursement rates for healthcare facilities regardless of where services are provided. YNHHS did not support the bill.

“Because our hospitals are teaching hospitals, our operating costs are higher than those of many others,” Ballou explained. “Plus, we pay significant hospital taxes, and our Medicaid reimbursements do not cover the cost of care. Our health system cannot afford to be reimbursed at the same rates as many other organizations.”

HB 6550, which would have modified hospitals’ community benefits reporting requirements, also did not pass, but will likely be reintroduced in a future legislative session.

A bill on the recreational use of cannabis received a lot of debate this year before passing during the Legislature’s special session. Ultimately, Gov. Ned Lamont signed legislation that legalizes and regulates the use of cannabis in Connecticut. 

YNHHS’ Government Relations team also works with Rhode Island legislators to support legislation beneficial to Westerly Hospital, its patients and employees, and the approximately 800 YNHHS employees living in the state. Rhode Island’s FY2022 state budget is a major issue. The proposed budget contains several provisions impacting hospitals, including hospital provider tax increases. If approved, this budget will have a significant negative financial impact on hospitals. (At press time, the RI legislative session was still under way.)

“The 2021 legislative sessions have been different, to say the least. All of our outreach efforts to discuss, debate and lobby with our state legislators were completely virtual,” Ballou said. “One resource that continues to be extremely effective is our Voter Voice outreach. Once again during the 2021 session, our team asked employees for support through the Voter Voice tool. This helps us communicate electronically with our legislators in support of, or in opposition to, causes that benefit or negatively impact our patients and health system. Thank you for your support. It absolutely makes a difference when legislators hear from the people who make YNHHS a leading healthcare provider in the region.”