BRISTOL – U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy representative Keegan Shepardson heard the concerns of local business owners at a Legislative Roundtable at Bristol Hospital Thursday, organized by the Central CT Chambers of Commerce.
Shepardson and his team work directly with the White House, Congress and regulatory agencies, seeking feedback from business owners on pending regulatory legislation.
The event was attended by roughly two-dozen Chamber members and representatives from local businesses. Paul Lavoie, vice-chair of the Chamber, welcomed them and then introduced Kurt Barwis, president and CEO of Bristol Health, who shared some of the issues Bristol Health was facing.
Barwis first began with the positives, noting that Bristol Health had some of the “best metrics” in the state when it came to safety and quality. However, he said there were two major issues they were struggling with.
The first significant challenge, he said, is the state’s hospital tax.
“We end up having to give back $4.2 to $4.3 million a year back to the state and that’s cash that could be purposed for responding to the substance abuse problems that our communities are facing,” he said.
The second issue, Barwis said, is the Medicare Advantage program. He said while it does help seniors manage costs, there have been major issues getting authorizations to transfer patients to skilled nursing facilities. This has resulted in patients being delayed from anywhere between 72 hours to two weeks at the hospital and the hospital having to incur costs for this time. He said it has also been difficult for the hospital to get paid after billing Medicare Advantage patients.
“Medicare Advantage is driving costs through the roof and we’re not getting paid for it,” he said. “Insurance companies have learned to use the rules to their advantage. The time it takes for authorization for Medicare Advantage patients is horrific. The behavior is not correcting itself and the state should take action on this next session.”
When Shepardson took the podium, he said he brings the voice of community business owners to Washington D.C. as fast as possible.
“I’ve found that one comment can change the entire course of where a regulation is going in the development phase,” he said. “Although a problem may be abundantly clear to a business owner and perhaps most people in their field, it isn’t always abundantly clear to us. We don’t know what we don’t know until we are told.”
Shepardson said his department is also in contact with numerous other agencies and can connect people who reach out to them if they can’t handle a particular problem. He clarified that his department focuses more on pending legislation than laws that have been on the books for a while. He also cleared up that his department doesn’t handle funding.
Julio Casiano, deputy district director for the SBA, then spoke from the audience about what other branches of the Small Business Administration could do. He said that, this year, they provided $300 million in loans, making them the largest lender in the state that wasn’t a bank.
Shepardson then brought up a story about how in New Hampshire, a convenience store in a small, rural community lost a refrigeration unit after a storm. The SBA was able to get them an emergency micro-loan to replace the unit and help them save their inventory.
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.