Christine Stuart photo

They ate, they drank, they danced, and they celebrated the passage of the state’s landmark health care legislation Thursday.

The legislation, which creates the framework for a public health insurance option, was passed during a veto-override session of the General Assembly on July 20. 

Thursday’s celebration took place at Union Station in Hartford where the journey began on Jan. 13.

“It’s a thank you for the many parts of the movement,” Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said.

Dan Livingston, who chairs the Connecticut Health and Research Trust, the parent foundation of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the legislation, known to most as SustiNet, was successful because it was about more than the foundation. It was a movement.

Christine Stuart photo

“We recognized we couldn’t make the changes ourselves, it had to be a movement,” Livingston said. And because it was a movement it gave legislators the courage to pass the bill, he added.

State Rep. Besty Ritter, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee, said a grassroots movement “absolutely makes a difference to a lot of legislators.” She said when hundreds of people are reaching out to you on the same issue you tend to at the very least pay attention to it.

While movements may give some legislators more courage, Ritter said the support of legislative leaders this year also made a big difference.

For a long time people were more likely to accept that the health care system was not something they could change, Ritter said.

The fact that the insurance capitol of the country was able to pass a framework for a public health care option “should send a message to the rest of the country,” Figueroa said. “If we can get it done in the backyard of the insurance industry, we can finish the job together as a country.”

In addition to the celebration Thursday, Figueroa said the party was also a way to get people focused and excited for the next phase of the project.

The work of the nine member SustiNet board began in July and last month two more position were added to the board. The now 11 member board will guide four committees and three task forces, which will report to the General Assembly in July 2010. Enrollment in the program will begin in July 2012.

If the federal government is able to pass some sort of health care reform the board will submit its recommendations to the General Assembly within 60 days of the federal legislation being passed.