The Senate gave final passage to a bill Monday evening that allows municipalities and some nonprofits to join the state employees health insurance pool, but it doesn’t include a public option and it doesn’t provide health care to everyone as the red tee-shirts worn by proponents urge.
Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, said the proponents of SustiNet, which had been envisioned as a universal type health care plan, have been very involved in the process but what’s in the legislation does not enact an insurance product.
“It does not provide for health care coverage in our state but it works toward the goal of looking at the different components that have come down from the federal level,” Gerartana said.
She argued the state already has a public option. It’s called the Charter Oak Health Insurance Plan which was put into place by former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell.
She said the legislation the Senate passed Monday includes a SustiNet cabinet which will look at what’s coming down from the federal level and evaluate how things are working in the state. The board has 21 members.
“No there’s not a public option,” Sen. President Donald Williams, said. But it wasn‘t for lack of trying. Several Democratic lawmakers would have liked to see the state move forward with a SustiNet plan which eventually offers a public option, but Williams admitted “the lack of fiscal resources are part of the problem.”
Not discouraged by the decision of Gov. Dannel Malloy’s administration to oppose SustiNet, Williams said instead of complaining about the current state of health care in the state the legislature is taking action and doing something about it by passing this legislation.
“The universal health care movement is alive and well in Connecticut,” Juan A. Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said following the vote. “The passage of this bill and other key health reform measures this year is the result of strong legislative leadership and the efforts of a broad-based coalition.”
Keith Stover, a lobbyist for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, said when the bill passed the House two weeks ago that he’s very encouraged by Malloy’s commitment toward setting up the federal health care exchanges through the creation of the new Office of Health Reform and Innovation.
The Office of Health Reform and Innovation was also part of the legislation passed Monday. That office will coordinate the state’s responsibilities under federal health care reform and is a move supported both by proponents and the insurance lobby.
“You can study, analyze, and plan all you want, but you can’t print money,” Stover said implying the cost of the full SustiNet proposal would have been too high and untenable.
Republicans lawmakers in the Senate, none of whom voted for the bill, introduced 11 amendments to the bill Monday. All were defeated.