The upcoming special session to implement the budget provides a glimmer of hope for healthcare advocates who have been seeking an expansion of the state’s Insurance Exchange Board.
The Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange was created last year as a quasi-public agency, which is empowered to help individuals and small employers obtain health insurance under the new federal law starting in 2014.
Kevin Galvin, a founder of Small Business for Health Care Reform, pleaded with members of the board Thursday to re-introduce a measure designed to expand the board by at least one vote for the state’s Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri.
Veltri currently sits on the board but is not one of the 11 voting members.
A bill that would have expanded the board from 14 to 18 members died in the final hours of the legislative session, despite having passed through two committees and receiving a unanimous vote in the House. Healthcare advocates blamed Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney for threatening to filibuster the bill in the final hours of the session, while McKinney blamed Senate Democratic leadership for letting the bill sit on the calendar for weeks.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said that she didn’t know whether the measure would be reintroduced as part of a special session, but that she would support such an effort.
Some have speculated that Wyman was responsible for the bill dying in the Senate because her office wasn’t consulted by the House, which added two Republican appointments to the board when it passed the bill. The two Republican appointments were in addition to the two Democratic appointments and Veltri. A spokesman from Wyman’s office said she was consulted by House Republican Leader Lawrence Cafero and supported the legislation despite contrary rumors.
Advocates told the Insurance Exchange Board on Thursday that there is added urgency to giving Veltri a vote, as new federal regulations adopted in March say that states’ exchange board must have at least one consumer vote.
Veltri said it’s possible that Connecticut risks losing federal funding if her position isn’t given a vote on the board.
By 2014, the quasi-public agency created by the Insurance Exchange Board will be the portal where everyone in the state is expected to purchase their health insurance. Advocates have complained about the number of former insurance executives on the board, some of whom were appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, McKinney, and Democratic legislative leaders.
Advocates contend that if the legislature does nothing, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services could refuse to provide necessary funding that the state is currently seeking to support the work of the board, or to make the exchange offerings eligible for federal reimbursement.
Several executives from the Insurance Exchange Board are going to Washington, D.C. next week for a performance evaluation from federal regulators.
Next Thursday and Friday, officials from the federal government will meet with Tia Cintron, the board’s chief executive officer, and others to assess Connecticut’s progress in communications, operations, and governance structure.
Veltri said that while board members aren’t required to appear at the D.C. evaluation, a few of them will probably accompany Cintron to the nation’s capitol.