Christine Stuart photo

Last week the House passed two health care reform bills, one of which was a priority for Speaker of the House Chris Donovan. As the bills make their way to the Senate this week their fate is a little less clear.

Rep. Betsy Ritter, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee, said last week the House made some real progress in moving the state forward with a “one-two punch” and is excited about the opportunity to bring the discussion to the Senate. She said the chances are very good that both bills will be debated by the Senate.

Sen. Jonathan Harris, the Senate co-chairman of the Public Health Committee, said Friday that he would review the revised SustiNet proposal this weekend. He said he was not part of the conversation between advocates and members of the House and was unable to offer any position on the revised bill. But he said “both bills have an excellent shot of being called.”

But even if the two bills get debated by the Senate, it’s uncertain if Gov. M. Jodi Rell would be willing to sign them into law. As the House was debating the two health are reform bills last week Rell’s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario said he had “serious concerns” about the SustiNet proposal and a litany of concerns over Donovan’s pooling bill.

But health care advocates aren’t close to giving up on the two proposals.

Christine Stuart photo

AARP which represents 625,000 members in the state of Connecticut officially endorsed the SustiNet propsal Friday at a Capitol press conference.

Brenda Kelly, AARP’s Connecticut director, said she’s impressed with all the resources that went into designing SustiNet. “We believe it provides a solid foundation,” Kelly said.

“We have to have a sense of urgency about this,” Kelly said.

She said people may wonder why AARP, which represents people above the age of 50, cares about health care reform. She said many may assume all AARP members are covered by Medicare, but that’s not true.

Kelly said residents age 50 to 64 is the fastest segment of the uninsured and workers over the age of 50 have been hit especially hard by the recent recession. And most states, Connecticut included, allow insurers to deny insurance based on age and health status.

Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said AARP’s endorsement of SustiNet was a crowning achievement. He said the foundation has been deliberate about engaging doctors, clergy, business leaders, and other interest groups.

He said the number of people demanding health care reform is a broad and deep movement.

“You can’t remain neutral on a moving train,” Figueroa said. “The fact is health care reform is coming.”

Figueroa said by approving SustiNet, Connecticut will be ready to receive more federal funds for health care reform than other states.