Christine Stuart photo
Majority Leader Chris Donovan (Christine Stuart photo )

There was only one item on the legislature’s Labor and Public Employees Committee public hearing agenda Friday: Majority Leader Chris Donovan’s “Connecticut Healthcare Partnership” bill.

The first person to speak about the bill wasn’t Donovan, it was Gov. M. Jodi Rell&#8#8217;s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario, who said it’s not clear who bears the cost of administration and coverage if the state employees health insurance pool is opened to municipal employees, nonprofits, and small businesses.

Donovan said what you need to know about this plan is “you can get good health care that costs less.” He said it’s really that simple.

Donovan said all the rural, suburban and urban municipalities he’s spoken to would save money by joining this plan. An Office of Legislative Research report found a small number of towns that are self-insured may not save money by joining the state employees pool.

Genuario seemed to take the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s position on the bill and said the way its written makes it look like it’s not voluntary. He said if that’s the case then it may drive up costs for municipalities that currently have cheaper health insurance plans and ultimately drive up taxes in those towns.

Donovan said his intention is to make it a voluntary program. He said the state employee health insurance plan is a great plan and expanding it will spread out the risk. For people who want good health insurance the question is, “Why haven’t we done it sooner?” Donovan said.

Juan Figueroa, President of the Universal Health Care Foundation said in an emailed statement that he supports the plan. “Allowing municipalities to voluntarily enter the state’s health insurance plan has the potential to reduce health care costs to municipalities and increase benefits for their employees. In addition to the potential cost savings to cities and towns, the plan would demonstrate the capacity of public-private partnerships to address some of our state’s knottiest health care and economic problems,” he said.

Opponents to the plan like CBIA have said, “advocates admit that a pooling system is merely a stepping stone for a future single-payer health care system. The impact of a single-payer system in Connecticut would be devastating to the state’s health insurance industry, placing tens of thousands of jobs at risk and striking a damaging blow to the economy.”

Bev Brakeman, executive director of Citizens for Economic Opportunity, said the opposition to the bill is coming from the businesses and associations that would lose money if this bill were passed. She said opponents are concerned because their sales and administration of health insurance would be diminished.