In the chaotic final days of a legislative session, advocates and lobbyists make a final push for that one bill that might just get forgotten or left behind in the chaotic final 12 hours of the session.
One such bill this year that advocates are sweating is the effort to expand the state’s Health Insurance Exchange Board from 11 voting members to 16.
Since making it through the House last week, the bill has stalled in the Senate and is now in a race against the clock.
Lawmakers and advocates both are saying that the bill has the votes to pass, but it’s only a question of whether the bill gets called by Democratic Party leaders.
Sen. Eric Coleman, D-Bloomfield, said that while there is plenty of support for the bill in “the circle,” the bill that gets passed likely would be a compromise. “It won’t pass in the form that it is currently,” he said, though he declined to outline any potential changes.
The bill, in its current form, would add four members to the board and give voting rights to State Health Care Advocate Victoria Veltri.
Veltri currently sits on the board but cannot vote. The four additional voting members would be made up of two representatives of small businesses, and two healthcare consumers.
The bill that the Government, Administration, and Elections Committee sent to the House would have one consumer and one small business representative, both appointed by Democrats.
The House version increased the new members from two to four: another consumer and another small businessperson. It gives two of the four appointments to Republican legislative leaders.
The small army of healthcare reform advocates in red shirts were outside the Senate chamber late Tuesday, flagging down Senators to encourage them to bring up the bill.
Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut, said that “when you’re in the last 48 hours of the session, time is really the biggest issue.”
He said that he felt “optimistic” about the senate being able to get through the budget and bring up the healthcare bill, and that the red shirts would be in the Capitol until the end.
Connecticut is one of only a few states that have actually taken steps to set up its own healthcare exchange allowed under President Barack Obama’s federal healthcare legislation.
Advocates in Connecticut have been agitating for months to get more voting members onto the board, particularly more consumers.
Eric George, the healthcare lobbyist for the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said that his group didn’t oppose the expansion of the board.
“I think that the movement of the exchange right now has been really in a positive direction,” George said, saying that the board would help with the growth of the private sector.
Karen Schuessler, director of Citizens for Economic Opportunity, was mostly concerned with the voting rights of the healthcare advocate. She said that it would be an “injustice” if the bill didn’t go through.