During a celebration of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Patient and Affordable Care Act, religious leaders and health care advocates called on Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to embrace a public option.
Iman Kashif Abdul-Karim of the Islamic Center of Greater Hartford called on Malloy, who “during his campaign proclaimed his intention to expand access to healthcare,” to “please stop wasting time and start doing the work he was elected to do.”
The crowd gathered at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford Thursday afternoon cheered Adbul-Karim’s remarks.
Abdul-Karim and other advocates called on Malloy to go further than just implementing the Patient and Affordable Care Act. They called on him to create an “affordable public option” here in Connecticut.
On the campaign trail in 2009, Malloy said he supported a public option, and he even stood side-by-side with religious leaders in calling for a public option just weeks before taking office. However, campaigning is different than governing and faced with a $3.6 billion budget deficit, Malloy backed off his support for a public option.
Back in February 2011, Ben Barnes, the governor’s budget secretary, said that the administration supports moving forward with federal healthcare reform, but wasn’t necessarily ready to embrace a state-run public option or hand over rate-setting power to a “quasi-public agency” as recommended by the SustiNet Board of Directors.
“It’s a little premature to set up SustiNet with the aggressive timetable in the bill,” Barnes told lawmakers in 2011.
SustiNet was a program set up by lawmakers to create a plan for health insurance reform in Connecticut, including a state operated public option. It was created by a Democratic legislature as a homegrown way to bring universal coverage to the state, and, ideally, save money and improve health care in the process. Last year, the SustiNet bill was essentially neutered turning what advocates had hoped would be the nation’s first public option into a powerless advisory board.
The advisory board called the SustiNet cabinet is charged with exploring alternatives—both nonprofit and public—to the private insurance market.
Today’s Supreme Court decision renewed advocates’ hopes for a public option.
Kevin Galvin, chair of Small Business for Healthy Connecticut, said health care reform hasn’t been stalled over the past few months, but its been moving slowly and there’s more work that needs to be done to improve health insurance access at the state level.
“Governor Malloy and legislative leaders must now move beyond implementing health care reform and press forward with a nonprofit option for quality, affordable care,” Galvin said.
Frances Padilla, executive vice president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the state passed laws in 2009 and 2011 which created unique opportunities for the advancement of health care in the state.
“The residents and small businesses of our state are counting on our elected leaders to get down to business and deliver quality, affordable health care to everyone,” Padilla said. “It’s time to finish the job.”
Padilla said the Connecticut insurance market is consolidated and it doesn’t offer consumers sufficient choice.
Giving private insurance companies the ability to compete with a government-sponsored plan may encourage them to drive down the cost as long as everyone is in the pool. She said the Insurance Exchange, the portal through which people will be required to purchase insurance in 2014, gives consumers more choices even without a public option.
But Barnes seemed confused about why advocates were even talking about a public option on a day like today.
“Pursuing a state based public option has little to do with today’s decision,” Barnes said in an emailed statement.
“Governor Malloy and the legislature have charged the Healthcare Exchange and the Office of Health Reform and Innovation to come up with ways to increase the access to and lower the cost of healthcare, including evaluation of the Basic Health Plan,” he said. “It would be premature to speculate on the best way forward to that goal until their work is completed.”