With an agreement between stakeholders and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration to move forward with a pared down version of SustiNet, supporters are slowly getting back on board.
On Tuesday the National Physicians Alliance will deliver a letter to Malloy and legislative leaders urging them to support SustiNet, which begins to pool together state employees, municipal employees, and nonprofits.
“We are frustrated to work in a system where our patients cannot afford needed treatments and where our patients are frequently denied the care they deserve,” the 55 Connecticut physicians wrote in their letter. “SustiNet will deliver patient-centered care that emphasizes prevention and self-management of chronic conditions, and will use state-of-the-art electronic medical records to monitor care.”
“In Connecticut, we pay too much for too little quality in our fragmented and irrational system,“ Dr. Julie Rosenbaum, a Fairfield resident who practices in Waterbury and teaches at Yale School of Medicine, explained. “SustiNet is a prime opportunity to improve how we care for our patients.”
But not all doctor groups agree. The Connecticut Chapter of the American College of Cardiology said an amendment adopted in March by the Public Health Committee stripped away the medical malpractice liability protections for doctors participating in the plan. Currently doctors practicing in federally funded community health centers and hospitals run by public colleges are afforded medical malpractice liability protections.
“Certainly we were disappointed when the malpractice reform provisions were stripped from the bill and we are continuing work on that issue. But we remain steadfastly committed to realizing the promise of SustiNet for all Connecticut patients and physicians,” Rosenbaum said.
The Connecticut State Medical Society comprised of mostly specialty and primary care physicians in small or solo practices continues to remain concerned about the medical malpractice portion of the legislation.
Audrey Honig Geragosian, communications director for the Connecticut State Medical Society, said her organization worked closely with SustiNet supporters for two years on drafting the legislation, but had to rethink its support once the malpractice protections were stripped from the bill. She said since that happened the organization has remained concerned and is reserving judgment until they see a final draft.
While the fate of the legislation is still unknown there were several provisions of the bill, including the additional employees needed to implement it, which were already adopted in the budget signed by Malloy on May 4. However, legislation is still needed to implement the structure of the organization which will be overseen by the lieutenant governor and a new office of Health Reform and Innovation.
Under the compromise version of SustiNet 21 voting members will comprise the Governor’s SustiNet Health Care Cabinet, which will be responsible for deciding whether the plan should be expanded to include small business and individuals, as originally envisioned by the legislation.
Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, which was instrumental in drafting the legislation and the concept said last week that the policy board will make recommendations by July 2012. He said the group will also be responsible for recommending a business plan. He said the work of the group will be done before the federal exchanges are in place in 2014—a victory for the group that was blindsided by Malloy’s decision not to support the original legislation.
Rep. Besty Ritter, D-Waterford, said last week that she wanted to see all populations covered by SustiNet and didn’t want to give up anything proposed in the original legislation.
“I’m happy to see there are actually budgeted positions,” Ritter said. “Did I get everything I wanted? No. My concern continues to be small businesses and uninsured individuals.”
Eric George, associate counsel for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the compromise version of SustiNet doesn’t have a public option because the governor did the math and figured out the state couldn’t afford it.
He applauded Malloy for recognizing that real health care reform happened at the federal level with the exchanges and by focusing on those it may become obvious Connecticut doesn’t need to move forward with a public option.