Christine Stuart file photo

The legislature’s Public Health Committee approved by a vote of 22 to 8 the Universal Health Care Foundation’s Sustinet proposal, which proponents say will reform how health care is delivered in the state of Connecticut.

“This is a critical and historic step for the people of Connecticut,” Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said Thursday.

Public Health Committee Co-Chairwoman Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Quaker Hill, said the bill provides a roadmap for the state to contemplate as it moves forward.

She said the new language added to the bill pushes the start date of the program back six months, gets rids of the medical malpractice clause opposed at the public hearing by the Trial Lawyers Association, and maximizes federal dollars.

She said it’s no secret that the state is dealing with a large fiscal crisis over the next few years. In order to minimize its impact on this bill the committee pushed the start date back to July 1, 2011 and will create the authority that will oversee the transition to Sustinet within available appropriations.

“It helps lessen the fiscal impact,” Ritter said of the new schedule.

And even though it received overwhelming support from most members of the Public Health Committee there were some who felt it went to far.

Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, said “it takes us toward a government run health care system.” He said there’s no research that shows by pooling together state employees and retirees with people now covered by state assistance programs will save the state any money.

He said he respects the intention of the bill, but doesn’t believe it’s very well thought out.

A fiscal conservative, Debicella said he thinks it will cost too much even with the new start date. “The fiscal note has just been shifted. It doesn’t go away,” he said.

Sen. Jonathan Harris-D-West Hartford, said the Sustinet proposal is part of a huge package of health care reforms and initiatives the legislature is dealing with this year.

He said there are bills addressing everything from coverage, access, and cost containment and several stakeholders who may disagree on things from time to time are in agreement on about 70 percent to 80 percent of the proposals.

Click here and here to read our previous reports on the Sustinet proposal.