Two dozens members of Students for Health Care Reform, a newly formed University of Connecticut advocacy group, paraded outside the governor’s mansion Tuesday afternoon calling for comprehensive healthcare reform.

Paul Mahler, a social work student at UConn said members of the organization wrote Gov. M. Jodi Rell on March 31 and asked to meet with her to talk about the Universal Healthcare Foundation’s SustiNet proposal. Mahler said she never responded.

Marybeth McNamara said the students were targeting Rell because “she has the power to set an example for the entire country while at the same time helping tens of thousands of Connecticut residents.”

She said the state is already pouring money into a flawed system.

Christine Stuart photo

Rell’s spokesman Chris Cooper said earlier in the day Tuesday that the governor feels Connecticut residents are fortunate because an estimated 95 to 96 percent of them are covered by employer based or public health insurance.

In fact, Rell was so concerned about helping uninsured residents gain access to health insurance that she created the Charter Oak Health Plan, Cooper said. He said it’s “a low-cost, good-quality plan.” He said it may not be a Cadillac, but it’s a darn good Chevy.

Mahler, McNamara, and the other students outside the governor’s mansion Tuesday don’t believe Charter Oak is the answer.

“Chop down Charter Oak, build up SustiNet,” was just one of their chants.

Mahler said for a family member struggling with a cancer diagnosis, the Charter Oak plan would not have helped since it has a $100,000 per year cap on benefits. He said the treatment she received would have cost much more than the $100,000 limit.

Since Rell established her Charter Oak plan an estimated 7, 068 people have been enrolled.

The students were supportive of the SustiNet proposal which would create a massive health insurance pool by combining the current pool of state employees and retirees with people now covered under state assistance programs, like Medicaid. The proposal does not include any individual mandates to purchase health insurance, but would allow employers to join the plan as long as they help contribute to the cost of their employees health insurance. It would also expand enrollment in public assistance programs such as Husky.