Sen. Edith Prague of Columbia wanted to know what happens to Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan for uninsured adults if SustiNet, Connecticut’s best shot at a public option, is enacted?

State Healthcare Advocate Kevin Lembo told her at the moment nothing will happen, but it’s likely overtime that there will no longer be a need for the plan, since most individuals will be eligible for SustiNet or some other plan offered as part of the federal exchanges that start in 2014.

Charter Oak, which was initially subsidized for low income individuals but is now offered as a flat $307 monthly premium, was Rell’s response to the number of uninsured residents in the state. The program covers any adult regardless of whether they have a pre-existing condition.

Lembo said the product, which was described by former Insurance Commissioner Thomas R. Sullivan as a “social program” and not an insurance product, has helped some individuals get coverage they may have been unable to get elsewhere. And since Charter Oak is one of a handful of public insurance options the state already offers it will be immediately included as part of the pool of Medicaid enrollees, state employees, and retirees. 

There are 15,633 individuals currently eligible for Charter Oak and 8,259 enrolled. The Department of Social Services says the number of enrollees has dropped slightly from November to December as the state moves the lower income individuals over to the federal Medicaid program. And those eligible for enrollment have submitted their applications, but haven’t paid their first monthly premium.

State Comptroller Nancy Wyman, the other co-chair of the SustiNet Board of Directors, said once SustiNet is adopted it’s likely there won’t be a need for other programs, such as the Municipal Employees Health Insurance Plan, that her office currently runs. She said the MEHIP population like the Charter Oak population will be rolled into the larger pool, which will act as the base population for the SustiNet program.

Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal government has already started offering it’s own Charter Oak type plan for individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Lembo said it’s possible that overtime that program could disappear too once the exchanges are opened and no one is allowed to be excluded for having a pre-existing condition. 

At the moment there are far fewer individuals, 28 to date, enrolled in federal program where the monthly premium ranges from $242 to $893, which on average is more expensive than the Charter Oak Health Plan. Rell delayed her decision about whether the state should offer the federal program for about a month because she wasn’t happy about the amount of the premiums.