Now that the federal health care bill has been signed into law, health care advocates in Connecticut are working at getting information about what’s in the bill out to residents and small businesses.
At a press conference in Meriden Monday advocates said Connecticut is uniquely positioned to take advantage of some of newly available federal subsidies because it has a framework for a public option in place under the SustiNet legislation.
More than 150 volunteer experts are working with the 11-member SustiNet board to implement the goal of making sure every resident in the state has access to affordable, quality health insurance, the group said.
“Families and businesses need reliable information about federal reform and SustiNet, the new state health care law, to make important life decisions,” Frances Padilla, acting president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said.
She said there’s a lot of misinformation out there and the foundation’s goal is to make sure the truth gets through. Translating a Spanish idiomatic expression, Padilla said, “the lie lasts until the truth arrives.”
In order to get some of the information out there to the small business community the foundation sponsored a forum Monday morning for small business owners. The small businessmen and women heard from a panel of experts about everything from the tax credits and how many of the new regulations only apply to companies with 50 or more employees.
Ben Geyerhahn, of Small Business Majority, told the audience that in New York 97 percent of employees with 50 or more employees already offer health insurance to their employees. He said the three percent that don’t would be subject to a tax for not offering it and that tax wouldn’t apply to the first 30 employees. So if a company had 51 employees they would end up paying $42,000 for not offering health insurance. At that point the employer will have to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it’s worth it.
But many of the provisions, including the one Geyehahn mentioned, don’t go into effect until 2014. Meanwhile, many regulations dealing with how the legislation will be implemented still need to be written.
“There’s much regulation that has to be still written,” Padilla said. “But there are pieces of the federal regulation that become available this year.”
Stan Dorn, senior research associate with the Urban Institute, highlighted a number of them.
Some of the best known parts of federal of law that go into effect quickly, Dorn said, is the reduction of the Medicare donut hole, young adults up to age 26 can be added to their parents policy, and slowing health care cost growth for the state’s existing Medicaid populations by creating health care delivery system reforms with federal dollars.
And because of SustiNet, “The state is poised to go far beyond many of its counterparts, elsewhere in the country, in implementing reform quickly,” Dorn said.
For example the federal bill gives $5 billion in subsidies to states that implement early retiree health care coverage plans that slow the growth of costs for the chronically ill. Responding to the SustiNet law the state Comptroller is already put out a request for proposals for a patient-centered medical home model.
“That qualifies Connecticut to be in the front of the line in accessing a finite number of federal dollars. Dollars that will be extremely important in helping the state meet its tremendous budget challenges,” Dorn said.