Christine Stuart photo
Rep. Jack Thompson, D-Manchester (Christine Stuart photo )

Manchester’s Caring Families Coalition said it is aware the state is facing a $343 million budget deficit in 2009, however, it wants to see local lawmakers make health care a priority.

Two days before the start of the legislative session the coalition invited lawmakers to a meeting at St. Bridget’s School in Manchester where it asked them some tough questions

“We want progress on health care for everyone,” John Ryan, chair of the Caring Families Coalition told three state lawmakers.

Sen. Mary Ann Handley, D-Manchester, said the state employees pooling bill that would allow municipal, nonprofit, and small business employees join the state employee health insurance pool, which was vetoed last year by Gov. M. Jodi Rell, has a good chance of passing this year. She said the Senate is also working on a bill that would create a trust fund for the uninsured in the state. She said the trust fund concept is not as far along as the pooling idea.

Rep. Jack Thompson, D-Manchester, said he believes the best way to offer health care to a large number of people is through the Federally Qualified Health Centers throughout the state.

Rep. Ryan Barry, D-Manchester, said he would make sure health care is a priority during caucus meetings. He said Connecticut has talked about universal health care but it hasn’t gotten the issue over the goal line because it hasn’t figured out how to pay for it. He said the state has to figure out one way to raise revenue to pay for a health care system.

Christine Stuart photo
Geraldine Caldwell (Christine Stuart photo)

Geraldine Caldwell of Hartford believes the state is already paying for it. In her testimonial Caldwell, one of the state’s 325,500 uninsured residents, said she just had abdominal surgery in December.

In 2001 Caldwell was diagnosed with colon cancer. In 2004 she had surgery on a twisted intestine. During each of those surgeries including her latest in December she was uninsured. In an effort to make her latest hospital stay more comfortable, Caldwell applied for free bed funds. Each hospital in the state receives money from the state for uncompensated care, including free beds for the uninsured.

She thought she had been approved prior to her surgery on Dec. 11, but one day later as she lay in pain in her hospital room she received a phone call from patient services. She said she asked them to call back when she was feeling better. On Dec. 15 a young man from patient services showed up in her room and asked her to fill out another form for the free bed funds because they had misplaced the first one.

Caldwell said she kicked him out. On Dec. 26, another patient services representative visited her and refused to leave until Caldwell filled out another application.

“How can a hospital allow this to go on? I have never been so hurt and embarrassed in my life,” Caldwell said.

She said a five day stay had turned into an 18-day stay because she had some complications and setbacks.

Caldwell said she’s dreading this week because she has another doctors appointment and she doesn’t have the $25 co-payment. “Will I have it on Friday, I don’t know,” she said.

Lisa Perrone, US Rep. John Larson’s district aide, after hearing Caldwell’s story said “I am appalled and Congressman Larson would be too.” Perrone said she thinks it was classy of Caldwell not to mention the name of the hospital in her testimonial.

Ryan said the conversation which was started Monday night will continue 7 p.m. Thursday when the group shows the video “Sick Around the World” in St. Bridget’s School cafeteria. And on Jan. 13 in Hartford when the Universal Health Care Foundation unveils it legislative solution to the health care crisis in the state.