Sen. Joe Markley and other advocates stood outside the House chamber Monday to draw attention to one of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s eight vetoes as they watched a small group of lawmakers gavel in and out without taking action on any of them.
In late May, Malloy vetoed a bill that would have required insurance companies to report more information about substance abuse treatment to the state Insurance Department. The bill received unanimous support in both chambers.
In his veto message Malloy said he was concerned about the integrity of the data the insurance companies would be expected to report. Also, he was concerned that Connecticut’s Insurance Exchange wouldn’t be able to adjust to add the information to the All-Payer Claims Database.
But Markley said there was no indication that there was a problem with the bill as it was going through the legislative process. He said he was “shocked” when the governor chose to veto it.
“The veto is on questionable grounds,” Markley said.
He said it was a “dereliction of duty” of the legislative branch not to take up the bill during Monday’s constitutionally-required veto session. But House Majority Leader Joe Aresimowicz said there was no desire by the Democrat-controlled House to override any of Malloy’s vetoes.
He admitted there were several bills that passed unanimously and they probably could have overridden the governor, if they had wanted to do so.
“It happens very seldom,” Aresimowicz said. “We tend to respect the opinion of the governor on these issues.”
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said they don’t have the numbers on the Republican side to force the Democrats to take up the vetoed bills. He said it was clear as recently as last week that they were not going to attempt to override any of the governor’s vetoes.
Markley said he doesn’t believe there’s any harm in lawmakers examining the action it took and the governor’s decision.
Karen Zaorski, a Wolcott resident whose son died from a cocaine overdose in 2010, said she was extremely disappointed in the veto.
She said the Program Review and Investigations Committee found that 7 percent of youth ages 12 to 17 and 21 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 meet the clinical criteria for substance abuse or dependence on alcohol or other drugs.
Zaorski said she understands all too well the willingness of insurance companies to deny in-patient treatment. She said they continually denied her son’s request for more than out-patient treatment.
“How many more must die?” Zaorski said. “This state and this nation is experiencing a pediatric health crisis.”
She said collecting the data was just the first step in determining just how big the problem is in Connecticut.
Markley said there was no opposition publicly, as far as he could tell, from the insurance industry. He said the bill was written before the 2014 legislative session and he thought they addressed all the concerns the insurance industry had with the bill originally.
“There was very little push back on it,” Markley said.
Rep. Mary Mushinsky, D-Wallingford, said she was not surprised Malloy vetoed the bill because “there is a technical problem in the bill concerning the reporting by the health insurance exchange.”
She said she had an amendment to fix the problem, but was unsuccessful in attaching it to another bill.
Mushinsky, who co-chairs the Program Review and Investigations Committee, said the committee has worked with the insurance industry to modify the reporting timetable and have agreed to extend it. The only remaining opposition to the bill was from the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.
“I appreciate that Sen. Markley brought the problem of substance abuse treatment denials to the PRI Committee’s attention,” Mushinsky said in a statement Monday. “Our research staff confirmed denials are more common in cases of private insurance coverage in our PRI report on substance abuse treatment. This bill is still needed, and I am confident we can repair it and pass it next year.”
Markley maintained that the bill should have been taken up Monday and amended, so they don’t have to wait until January to start the process again from scratch.