Christine Stuart photo

(Updated 4:43 p.m.) Despite concerns about the number of doctors and hospitals willing to accept the new state-subsidized insurance plan, Gov. M. Jodi Rell defended her no frills Charter Oak Health Plan Monday at a press conference following the state Bond Commission meeting.

Rell said there’s still time for doctors and hospitals to sign up with one of the three insurance companies that will administer the plan for the state. The next enrollment period isn’t until Sept. 1. Since July 31, 24 people have been enrolled in the plan, 6,738 applications have been received, and the state has accepted 20,159 calls regarding the plan.

“Twenty-four people now have health insurance that didn’t have health insurance before. Some people might say or they might ask: Did you rush it? Those individuals will tell you that you didn’t make it happen fast enough,” Rell said.

State lawmakers like Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, said Monday that he’s concerned with the lack of participation from the medical community. Only two hospitals, St. Raphael’s in New Haven and St. Mary’s in Waterbury, have signed up to participate. 

Christine Stuart photo

Harris said since Rell first announced that her new Charter Oak Health Plan would be combined with HUSKY, the states Medicaid program for low-income children, lawmakers have been encouraging Rell’s administration to separate the two. In order to bid on HUSKY, the three health insurance companies had to bid on Charter Oak, too.

“This was an act of the legislature as well,” Rell said answering a question regarding the concerns lawmakers and advocates had about the combination of the two plans. “We’re following the law that created this and that moved forward with combining HUSKY and the Charter Oak Plan so we can again pool our resources and get the best bang for the buck.”

“This is the first I’ve heard of that,” Harris said. He said the legislature introduced two bills to separate the two and Rell threatened to veto at least one of the bills that would have delayed the implementation of Charter Oak about six months.

He said by continuing to enroll people and accept applications, it’s like opening up a candy store with no idea what you’re going to charge for candy and no one at the counter to accept the money. “Is the store open or not?” Harris said.

Harris said he agrees with everything Department of Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski wrote Rell’s Chief of Staff M. Lisa Moody in this June 4th email.

In the email Starkowski wrote: “Lisa, I am pushing as fast as I can on this but I am sure you agree that the last thing we want is for us to start the program and the managed care companies not have their network of providers signed up.”

Rell characterized the email exchange Monday as, “Two individuals saying: Look we have a deadline to meet and we’re ready to do it.”

In the email, Starkowski goes onto say, “I don’t want to open a program that embarrasses the Governor, doesn’t meet her commitments, has fatal flaws at the start or gets shut down due to inadequacies.”

Harris said he’s heard from hospitals that they are willing to provide care for HUSKY patients, but not Charter Oak patients. “Let’s not hold HUSKY kids hostage in the process,” he said.

Rell said building a network of doctors doesn’t happen overnight and the number of medical professionals enrolled with the three insurance companies is increasing on a daily basis.

Read our previous report about the number of docs by county signing with each of the three health insurance companies.