Christine Stuart file photo
Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, led Saturday’s debate on health care in the Senate (Christine Stuart file photo)

During a rare Saturday session, the Senate gave final passage to two health care reform measures which would change how health care is financed and delivered in the state.

One bill would allow small businesses, nonprofits, and municipal employees join the state employees health insurance pool. The other bill called SustiNet would create a nine-member board of directors, three task forces, and four advisory committees that will make recommendations to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2011. The ultimate goal of the board will be to recommend a health care plan that guarantees every resident in the state has health insurance.

While Democratic lawmakers and advocates applauded the passage of the bills, it’s still unclear whether Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell would sign either bill.

On May 20th when the bills were up for debate in the House Rell’s Budget Secretary Robert Genuario came up to the Capitol press room to voice his concerns over both bills. Click here to read our previous story which outlines the administration’s concerns over the two proposals.

Health care advocates will turn their lobbying efforts toward Rell in the next few weeks as the bill makes its way to her desk.

“Few elected leaders ever get such a perfect opportunity to enact major reform,” Juan A. Figueroa, president of Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said Saturday in a press release. “The House, the Senate, and the people of Connecticut have delivered one such defining moment to Governor Rell.”

Brenda Kelley, executive director of Connecticut’s AARP said in a press release that her organization, “commends the Senate for their passage of SustiNet (H.B. 6600) and the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership (H.B. 6582), which in conjunction, will expand access and improve the affordability of health care for Connecticut residents.”

“SustiNet will ensure Connecticut continues to be a national leader in the care of its most vulnerable and by lowering skyrocketing health care costs, will help put our economy back on solid financial footing,” Kelley said. “We urge the Governor to waste no time is signing this landmark legislation. Connecticut’s more than 300,000 uninsured residents have waited long enough.”

While debating the measure on the floor of the Senate, Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, said, “We already have universal health care in Connecticut, but it’s not working. It’s sick care. It’s the ER.”

“People who can’t afford or don’t have health insurance don’t take care of themselves, and when they get sick they end up in the hospital emergency room with their bills paid for by the taxpayers of Connecticut,” Harris said. “This Sustinet plan addresses cost, quality, access and coverage, and it does so in a more humane, more efficient, and more cost-effective manner than any other proposal to date.”

The SustiNet bill passed the Senate Saturday 23-12 and the pooling bill, also known as the Health Care Partnership bill passed 21-12.