Christine Stuart photo

Lawmakers and advocates of a controversial bill that would expand the state employees health insurance plan to nonprofits, small businesses, and municipalities held a rally at the state Capitol Thursday afternoon to encourage Gov. M. Jodi Rell, one last time, to sign the bill.

But their rally call, “Good plan, costs less,” may have fallen on deaf ears since Rell is at a Council of State Governments conference in Kentucky through the end of the week.

Nonetheless, Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said they wanted to give the bill “a little boost to make it over the finish line.”

Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Rell this week vetoed an increase in the minimum wage, and the crowd of about 100 people interrupted him to “boo” Rell’s veto. Looney continued by saying her veto of the minimum wage increase was based on her concerns for the business economy in the state. “If that’s true, then how could she possibly veto this pooling bill?” he said. 

Christine Stuart photo

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz said she just learned that half of the 400,000 uninsured individuals in the state work for small businesses. She said this bill asks the governor to stand up to special interests in the insurance industry and help small businesses that are “desperate for affordable health care.”

Earlier this week, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal issued an opinion saying the state can not unilaterally expand the pool of individuals in the state employees health insurance plan, but that doesn’t mean it can’t create competition by allowing insurance companies to bid on a new pool of individuals that work in nonprofits, municipalities, and small businesses.

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s President David Fusco has said if the state expands the state employees health insurance pool which it has already bid on then Anthem would have to increase its costs to the state by $24 million.

“Do not buy and be bullied into Anthem’s bogus argument,” Blumenthal told the crowd outside the Capitol Thursday.

Republican lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, R-Southport, have said now that the state realizes it would be a contract violation to expand the existing state employees pool, it is “desperate” to come up with a way to continue to make the bill work. He said a second pool of individuals was never anticipated by the bill.

Blumenthal said that’s simply not true. He said just because the Republicans didn’t know it was in the original legislation, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Donovan said he thinks the bill will create competition in the insurance industry. He said one vendor already is interested, which means “other vendors are going to be interested.”

Rell will have 15 days to decide what to do with the bill.