September 29, 2022

Doctors trained in ‘Connecticut mostly leave Connecticut’, State Medical Society wants this and health insurance issues addressed by lawmakers

With Connecticut’s 2022 legislative session fast approaching, physicians at the helm of the Connecticut State Medical Society drew attention Friday to the state’s inability to retain medical students and the need to reduce the burdens placed on physicians by health insurance companies.

“We have great medical schools,” Dr. Bob Russo, CSMS chief medical officer, said on a media call Friday detailing the organization’s legislative goals. “We’re just not keeping them. We’re not keeping the students in the state.”

Few medical students and residents remain in Connecticut after their educational and training programs end, largely due to financial burdens, said CSMS legislative chairman Dr. David Emmel. Many find the cost of living in Connecticut too high, he said, and are strapped with educational debt that propels them to more lucrative positions in other states.

“The physicians we train in Connecticut mostly leave Connecticut,” he said. “It’s really painful to watch them go and it’s hard for practices that are trying to attract the best young physicians to get them to come to Connecticut.”

Emmel called on the legislature to address the “brain drain” through loan forgiveness programs and other efforts aimed at helping young physicians set up their practices in-state.

Members of the CSMS — which represents 4,000 physicians across Connecticut — also raised concerns about the growing consolidation of medical practices across the state, which they attributed, in part, to the burdensome requirements placed on small practices by health insurance companies.

Often, small practices struggle with the voluminous administrative tasks required by insurance companies, physicians said. High-deductible plans and prior authorization requirements, which compel physicians to receive permission from an insurance company before performing a procedure, are among the major obstacles.

“When you go to the insurance company and say, ‘I want to do cataract surgery,’ or ‘I want to get an MRI,’ you need to go through a process that is long and can be very tedious,” Russo said. At times, prior authorizations are retroactively denied, burdening patients with unexpected bills. And in some cases, waiting for authorization can delay needed care.

The society’s other goals for the upcoming legislative session include addressing the pediatric mental health crisis, preventing physician burnout and expanding access to telehealth services.

“Telemedicine has worked very well during the pandemic and the General Assembly and governor need to keep it going,” said CSMS president Dr. Ron Adelman. “It provided patients with critical access to their physicians during COVID-19, particularly elderly and immunocompromised patients.”

Eliza Fawcett can be reached at [email protected]