Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced this weekend that she is forming a “Rapid Review” panel to follow the progress of the federal health care legislation. Sound familiar?
When Connecticut’s General Assembly overrode Rell’s veto in July to approve the creation of a SustiNet board it did the exact same thing. The now 11-member SustiNet board will review federal legislation and report its impact on the state to the General Assembly within 60 days of its passage.
“I know and certainly appreciate that Congress has worked long and hard on these reforms, but Connecticut taxpayers should not have to shoulder any extra burden,” Rell said in a press release Saturday. “I want to be absolutely sure that there are no added costs – either hidden or overt – in this voluminous piece of legislation.”
State Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo, who also co-chairs the SustiNet board of directors, finds Rell’s newly found enthusiasm regarding the legislation curious.
“If the Governor had a big idea that isn’t in the bills, she might have spoken up earlier in the process,” Lembo said Monday. He said Rell was absent when Anthem asked the Insurance Department to approve a double-digit increase for its individual plans.
“Now they are worried about affordability?” Lembo said.
As for the creation of a new committee to address the federal legislation, “Committees are not ends in themselves,” Lembo said. “Governing by Committee protects leaders from being accountable to the people for anything beyond the punctuation in a press release.”
“Given the tremendous demands on the residents of Connecticut and their government, perhaps the energy to be invested in this duplicative effort is better placed in other areas of government operation where agencies are failing to keep up with need and demand,” Lembo added.
Lembo said he’s ultimately worried about any confusion from the now three committees examining the federal legislation.
Rell’s “Rapid Review” panel will be led by Cristine Vogel, deputy commissioner of the Department of Public Health. It will include representatives from the Department of Public Health, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Insurance, the Office of Policy and Management, hospitals, physicians, small employers and large employers.
“This team will track the bill during the ‘conference’ process, when the differing House and Senate versions are combined, to identify any areas that may be troublesome and to engage our Congressional delegation in fixing the problems,“ Rell said in a press release Saturday. “As the bill moves toward final form and an up-or-down vote, they also will help us target specific actions we need to take as a state to be ready to implement any coming changes.”
“Rapid Review” panel is different from the Connecticut Health Care Reform Advisory Board, which Rell created by executive order when she vetoed the SustiNet legislation. The “Rapid Review” panel will be active in following the progress of the legislation as it makes its way through the conference committee and be ready to make recommendations to the governor about how the final bill will impact the state, Rell’s office said Monday. This makes it the third committee or panel to review the federal legislation.
Click here to read Thomas MacMillan’s previous report on the dueling panels when there were just two.