While they applauded her recognition of the health care crisis in the state, it didn’t take long for critics of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan to emerge.State legislators and health care advocates criticized the details Rell unveiled Wednesday in her plan, which has left many with more questions than answers.
Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, expressed concerned that Rell’s plan was “a repackaging of what already exists in the marketplace.” Officials from the Office of Health Care Access were concerned the $250 monthly premium would attract older adults, since adults in their 20s may be eligible for similar insurance coverage offered directly from insurance companies at a much lower cost. In this scenario, a company could end up paying out more than it takes in, which would likely increase premiums over time.Another question is why would the state give the four Medicaid managed care organizations, three of which they are fighting in court, an opportunity to make more money when the $700 million that state already pays them to manage the HUSKY insurance program for kids is mostly unaccounted for? Majority Leader Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, has said the companies are acting like “rogue business partners who are hiding the books.” Click here to read more about the latest in that lawsuit. Michael Starkowski, deputy commissioner of the Department of Social Services, said Friday that the state talked to the four managed care companies already doing business with the state, but it intends to extend the offer to any company interested in creating a plan with the benefits specified by the governor. “I think we’re trying to see what the interest is in the state,” Starkowski said. In order to keep the premiums low, the idea is to get the highest number of healthy enrollees into the plan, he said. In a tiered system where age is taken into consideration a 20-year-old would pay $200 or less, but a 42-year-old would have a premium as high as $600 a month. “We’re trying to make it a group rate,” Starkowski said. In order to qualify for the Charter Oak Health Plan residents would have to be without health insurance for six-months. Starkowski said what the state doesn’t want is employers dropping employees from their health insurance because the state option is out there. “We still think the corporate would should live up to its responsibility,” he said. A recent study showed the annual average premium paid out by employers is between $7,500 and $7,800. Other studies have shown that two-thirds of uninsured adults are employed. Increased access to quality, affordable health care for everyone in the state should be a top priority in the next legislative session, Williams said. Williams, unlike Rell, believes the state should spend of its funds to help individuals and businesses rein in the costs of health care. Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan doesn’t require state funds. This summer Rell’s Democratic opponent New Haven Mayor John DeStefano proposed eliminating $350 million in corporate tax loopholes to pay for a universal health system that would put small businesses and uninsured individuals into one pool. His plan also required that all companies provide health care or forfeit any tax breaks at all.