CTNJ file photo
Sen. Jonathan Harris (CTNJ file photo)

As a bill making changes to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s new Charter Oak Health plan was debated late Friday night by the Appropriations Committee, it almost sounded like the Republicans were advocating for universal health care and the Democrats opposed it because it lacked the proper fiscal analysis.

The role reversal may have confused many, who tuned into Connecticut Network, the state’s government and public affairs channel, shortly before 9 p.m. Friday.

Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, summarized the bill’s intent by first thanking Rell for her efforts in attempting to address the problem with the uninsured in the state, but his appreciation quickly turned into criticism as he talked about how the Department of Social Services has ignored the legislature’s request for information about the financial feasibility of the plan.

Harris has repeatedly asked for information about the plan’s “financial sustainability.” The bill proposes an actuarial study of the plan, which has been promoted as an affordable health insurance program with a $250 per month premium.

Democrats have said the benefit levels included in the plan for things such as the pharmacy benefits could make the plan unaffordable for the chronically-ill who need more than the $7,500 proposed annual benefit.

Republicans have said benefits such as mental health parity, which was also included in the bill being debated, will make the plan unaffordable.

Rep. Kevin DelGobbo, R-Naugatuck, said Friday “as laudable as they are they make this plan completely untenable.” DelGobbo argued the added scrutiny the Democrats want to give the plan will delay its July 1 implementation.

“I don’t think a short delay is untenable, if it makes sure the plan is sustainable,” Harris said. “We’re not saying we want to give everyone everything.”

Republicans have argued Democrats are trying to turn the governor’s proposal into a universal health care plan with a wide range of benefits that aren’t affordable. The Department of Social Services has said the plan was never meant to be the Rolls Royce of health care plans.

Harris has countered with “we want a Ford that works.”

Sen. David Cappiello, R-Danbury, said the fiscal note for the bill shows an independent actuarial analysis will cost $150,000. Cappiello said it would be cheaper if the legislature hired an actuary to study all of the insurance mandates legislators attempt to pass every year.

Harris said he’d be happy to work with Cappiello on that at a later date.

The bill ended up passing around 9:12 p.m. 35 to 17.