Christine Stuart photo

The rising cost of health care has labor leaders and local elected officials joining forces to lobby for the passage of a bill which would allow municipal employees, nonprofits, and small businesses to join the state employees health insurance pool.

“While we do not agree on everything it is safe and fair to say that on this issue we agree that it is important that everyone be afforded an opportunity to participate in the state employee health insurance pool,” John Yrchik, executive director of the Connecticut Education Association, said Thursday.

Christine Stuart photo

“Extraordinary times require government to do extraordinarily difficult things. This is not one of those, “Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy said. “This is easy.”

Malloy, whose city saw double-digit increases in health care costs last year said this type of legislation simply makes sense.

Sal Luciano, executive director of AFSCME Council 4, said 85 to 86 percent of towns would see savings over their current health care plans, if they were able to participate in the state employees health insurance pool.

On average, individuals would save more than 14 percent and families would save 15 percent if they were able to participate in the state pool, Luciano said.

Joseph Cirasuolo, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, said “Even in the best economic times I would be here supporting this legislation.”

He said giving school system leaders the option of reducing their health care costs means more money for programs that benefit the children. The threat of layoffs and bigger classroom sizes is very real for many communities across the state, he said.

Based on what he’s hearing from school superintendents, Cirasuolo said, any school system that gets a one percent increase in their budget is very lucky. He said most schools are seeing no increases and some are seeing their budgets cut. 

Last year Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed a similar bill.

But education advocates, labor leaders, and local elected officials remained optimistic that this year the bill may pass.

“We believe the fiscal stress on municipalities is much greater this,” Yrchik said. “There’s an even more compelling reason to pass this legislation this year than last year.”

Luciano said Rell may have vetoed the bill last year, but she did so with a lot of praise.

Since then Rell has agreed to allow municipalities to make purchases through the state for things like office supplies. Luciano said purchasing health care shouldn’t be treated any differently than paperclips.

Malloy said this year people know more about the bill than they did last year when it was first introduced.

Click here to listen to CEA’s new radio ad on the subject.