Christine Stuart photo

The Connecticut Citizens Action Group, along with a coalition of labor and community organizations, announced Tuesday that they will participate in the launch of a $40 million national campaign to promote affordable, quality health care for all Americans.

The campaign called “Health Care for America Now!” is organizing to assure that the first order of business for the next president and congress is legislation guaranteeing health care for all Americans, regardless of income or employment.

Phil Sherwood, deputy director of CCAG, said the coalition will be asking congressional candidates questions like, “Which side are you on? Are you on the side of quality, affordable health care? Or are you on the side of being left alone to fend for yourself in a complicated, bureaucratic insurance market?”

Christine Stuart photo

State Rep. David McCluskey, D-West Hartford, said Tuesday he knows which side he’s on. Since first running for office in 1998, McCluskey said he’s campaigned on an affordable, quality health care system. He said he’s optimistic that, as Americans, “we can do this.”

Two years ago the legislature fell short of passing a universal, single-payer health care system, instead opting to increase doctor reimbursement rates for Medicaid participants. In addition to increasing doctor reimbursement rates, it created two health care committees that will study the issue and report back to the legislature in December 2008.

In 2007 the legislature also approved Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan for uninsured adults too young for Medicare and too old for HUSKY—the state’s Medicaid program for low income children. The plan, which started accepting applications earlier this month, is being touted as “the first health plan in the nation for the uninsured that does not require income limits, employer mandates, or individual mandates.”

But as far as Sherwood is concerned, the Charter Oak Plan is no better than the health insurance marketed on television at 3 in the morning. He said he doesn’t believe the Charter Oak offers quality health care, but he wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s “predatory.” He said it could be used as a “stepping stone” in the future.

Insurers participating in the plan believe it could help lower costs to the overall health care system. On July 1, Tom McAteer of Aetna called Rell’s plan “a bold approach” to helping the uninsured. He said that by offering a delineated plan to the uninsured, the entire health insurance industry is saving money because it’s not paying as much as it would without the plan for the uninsured who walk into emergency rooms when they need routine medical attention.

Click here to watch Tuesday’s press conference and here to learn more about the campaign.