A bill that would create a comprehensive plan for a state-wide health delivery system was raised by the legislature’s Public Health Committee Wednesday on the same day Republicans in Washington voted to repeal federal healthcare reform.
Connecticut Democratic legislators moved forward with a reform plan called SustiNet that would eventually create a public option for state residents.
“We need to be clear about where we are going, so Connecticut can be move to the front in claiming the potential benefits of that legislation instead of lagging behind,’’ said Rep. Betsy Ritter, co-chairman of the Public Health Committee. “This is our time and we cannot afford to hesitate.’’
Proponents say SustiNet will be a framework for leveraging the state’s health care purchasing bargaining power to create a larger pool open to individuals and groups and contain costs.
House Speaker Christopher Donovan, D-Meriden, noted the contrast between what was happening in Washington and in Connecticut in regard to healthcare reform.
“I congratulate the committee on this first step toward healthcare reform,’’ Donovan said. “At the same time in Washington there is a movement for repeal. But let’s be clear – they will not repeal the healthcare act,’’ noting that President Obama would veto any legislation that would repeal healthcare reform.
By slowing the growth of healthcare costs, advocates say, SustiNet would save Connecticut taxpayers $226 million annually by substituting newly available federal dollars for current state spending. The public option aspect of the plan would roll out in 2014. The bill, which created the SustiNet Board of Directors who crafted the recommendations, was passed almost two years ago after the Democratic majority overrode former Gov. Jodi Rell‘s veto.
“One of the top issues stifling economic growth is the cost of Connecticut is healthcare,’’ Donovan said. “What Connecticut families need is not health insurance. They need healthcare assurance – the assurance that – healthcare that will be there for us when we need it. The SustiNet plan will do that.’’
The SustiNet boards’ recommendations call for a more coordinated patient-centered, evidence based approach to healthcare, creating an integrated system that would bring savings to taxpayers and businesses.
“Small businesses need healthcare reform to sustain them and grow,’’ said Kevin Galvin, a member of Small Businesses for a Health CT. “SustiNet allows Connecticut ‘s small businesses to provide quality, affordable health insurance.’’
Linda St. Peter, a realtor and a cancer survivor, said SustiNet will enable people who want to follow the dream of having their own businesses to have the peace of mind that they can receive health insurance that is affordable.
“We have taken a big step forward– the term pre-existing condition will not be a bad word anymore….Businesses like choices and SustiNet will bring higher quality, lower cost and choices for all the citizens of Connecticut,” said St. Peter.
The next step is a public hearing that will be held in February, Ritter said. No date has been set, but the bill is likely to receive opposition from Republicans who are concerned about what the bill will cost the state in the absence of federal health care dollars.