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In An Election Year, Democratic Lawmakers Praise Affordable Care Act

by Christine Stuart | Jul 2, 2012 4:22pm
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Election 2012, Town News, Hartford, Health Care

Christine Stuart photo

Rep. Betsy Ritter

Democratic lawmakers gathered at the Legislative Office Building Monday to discuss how anxious they are to start educating the public about all the benefits of President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Rep. Elizabeth Ritter, co-chairwoman of the legislature’s Public Health Committee, said the Supreme Court’s decision allows the state to move toward full implementation of the law “with the certainty that we have a strong federal partner.”

Connecticut, unlike many states, already has taken advantage of the Medicaid expansion provision, creation of an Insurance Exchange Board, and some of the other consumer protections.

Ritter estimated that Connecticut’s uninsured population, which stands at about 380,000 individuals today, will drop by about 170,000 once the law is fully implemented. The numbers are based on the experience in Massachusetts. She estimated that about 3 percent of the population will remain uninsured.

Sen. Terry Gerratana, Ritter’s co-chairwoman, said state lawmakers should “absolutely” consider a public option to offer as part of its insurance exchange, which is the portal where all Connecticut residents will go to obtain health care benefits.

But there are those populations which may not be able to afford to purchase insurance through the exchange, including low-income populations who won’t be covered by Medicaid and who may not be able to purchase a private insurance plan on the exchange.

Under the Affordable Care Act, individuals who fall between 133 percent and 200 percent of the federal poverty level qualify for subsides through the exchanges, but the state can opt to offer those individuals a Medicaid-type plan and claim the subsidies itself.

Gerratana said she’s a member of a working group, which is exploring how best to cover this population. For the past two years, the state legislature failed to pass legislation which would implement what is being called the Basic Health Plan

Lawmakers were joined at the press conference by state Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, who said the Affordable Care Act will help more residents obtain insurance because it takes discriminatory tools away from insurance companies — tools such as exclusion for pre-existing conditions and gender rating.

There will be “no more circumstances where women who are 30 pay twice as much as a man of the same age just because they’re of child-bearing age,” Veltri said.

She said the law also includes several market reforms such as allowing parents to keep their children on their insurance policies until they’re 26 years old, lifting annual and lifetime limits, and free preventative screening.

Veltri, who is a member of the Insurance Exchange Board, said creating the board and being able to offer consumers a menu of private health care plans is important, but to millions of Connecticut residents the market reforms are huge.

“The ACA is a major victory for Connecticut consumers,” Veltri said. “It represents the best of America, the best of our state.”

Another one of the reforms also is expected to put some of money back into the pockets of Connecticut residents in August in the form of health insurance rebates.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced last week that 137,000 Connecticut residents will benefit from $12.9 million in rebates from insurance companies this summer because of the Affordable Care Act’s 80/20 rule. According to a press release from Sebelius’ office, these rebates will average $168 for the 77,100 Connecticut families covered by a policy that didn’t spend the required 80 percent on medical care.

Some of the other benefits lawmakers touted Monday include the following:

    23,000 young adults gained insurance coverage; last year, 422,154 state residents received free preventive services – such as mammograms and colonoscopies – or a free annual wellness visit, and; 1.38 million state residents (including 525,000 women and 367,000 children) no longer have to worry about lifetime limits on health insurance coverage.

But forget about the numbers for a second. Rep. Andrew Fleischmann, a West Hartford lawmaker and cancer survivor, said there are many people who are in denial about the current state of the health care system.

“They think about it as if it’s something that’s maybe going to happen to grandma, grandpa, their parents eventually,” Fleischmann said. “They don’t think about the fact that every human being in this state is going to need health care at some point in their life. Every person in this state deserves the type of health care coverage that assures them that while they are in those dire moments they don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to have coverage.”

Fleischmann was diagnosed with cancer in 2009 and sought treatment at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York. He was repeatedly told that his health insurance plan would not cover treatment at Sloan-Kettering. Fleischman believed that his plan did cover such treatment, and persisted until his insurance carrier made good on the policy — acknowledging that, in fact, MSKCC coverage was included under his plan.

Elective Abortions?

Veltri said the federal law doesn’t allow any federal dollars to be used on abortions, but right now stakeholders are discussing whether elective abortions should be covered in the state.

Right now, every private insurance plan in Connecticut already includes coverage for elective abortions. But under the Patient and Affordable Care Act, Connecticut must choose an “essential health benefits plan” and not all of the options they have to choose from include elective abortions as a mandated coverage option.

The issue is likely to spark debate. The Health Plan Qualifications advisory committee has until the end of the summer to make their recommendations to the Insurance Exchange Board. But, as of this moment, it is not considering any of the plans that don’t include abortion as an option.

“Unless something happens I think elective abortions are going to be one of the coverage options,” Veltri said.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have scheduled the first repeal vote on the law next week, according to U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy.

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(6) Comments

posted by: sightover | July 2, 2012  6:55pm

To be sure: November is now about Healthcare. Is the largest single middle class tax hike in recent memory what Americans want to solve the problem of overly expensive health care ... all during a prolonged economic contraction?

Americans know that this law is a poor answer to a complex issue. They don’t like how it was enacted. They don’t like the price tag. Americans would rather see trial lawyers take a haircut, allowing doctors have to carry less malpractice insurance. We’d like to shop across state lines for our own insurance. Americans want Congress to read bills before passing them. People outside of blue cities/suburbs and ivory towers really hate this law. 

SCOTUS’s ruling will prove to be a blessing in disguise for Willard M. Romney.

posted by: middleoftheroad | July 2, 2012  7:14pm

CT is where the battle for choice began.  CT plans will cover elective abortions consistent with our state and the U.S. Constitutions.  We will protect a woman’s right to choose and self-determination on end of life care choices.

posted by: Hoosier@CT | July 3, 2012  7:37am

I am all for people having the right to purchase health insurance. If they purchase health insurance that covers abortions then that is their choice (while I do not agree with the actual act). What I do not agree with is that I as a tax payer should help fund the effort to take the life of an unborn child. The affordable healthcare act is the largest tax increase placed on the American citizen in my voting lifetime. Justice Roberts had to twist and turn some many times in his dissertation that I am sure he got lost.  When is a tax not a tax? When you are trying to litigate it I guess…  So on one hand it was a tax, but in order for the justices to hear the arguments, it couldn’t be a tax…but in the end they declared it a tax…. I am so confused, but then when your goal is to double-talk it into legitimacy, you can wonder down as many dead-end opinions as you want.

I strongly hope that Mr. Obama is issued his walking papers at the next election, and we can look forward the Republican party bringing us out of this dark dark time.

posted by: joemanc | July 3, 2012  10:19am

Educating the public - ha!

What I have yet to see is this: Obamacare sets a penalty, uhm, tax, if you don’t have coverage. The penalty is very small compared to what individuals pay for insurance now. And here’s the kicker - insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. So what will happen is people, like me, will pay the penalty because it’s much cheaper. Then if I get sick, I will sign up for insurance since I can’t be denied. This will ultimately destroy private insurance companies. I have yet to see it reported in any of the media outlets.

posted by: middleoftheroad | July 3, 2012  8:09pm

Well, it’s hard to stop the propaganda machine, but let’s try:

1). Read the law.  It explicitly prohibits any federal funding from going toward elective abortions.

2). Largest tax increase?  Please.  Read the CBO scoring.  Even Business Week came out with a story debunking the Republican myth.  See http://mobile.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-03/why-obamacares-tax-increase-isnt-the-biggest-ever.

3). Insurance companies have done a great job taking care of themselves.  If someone doesn’t buy coverage, leaving the rest of us to keep paying for that person’s medical costs, the insurers will be forced to innovate.  They aren’t going anywhere.

posted by: Mitchell Young | July 5, 2012  1:56pm

Why would Connecticut’s progressives be in favor of ceding local and personal control – of their health care to the largest institution on the planet, the US Federal Government?

By definition and as discussed within the abortion debate there are many political considerations from a federally controlled and mandated healthcare that more progressive states now have control of.

What in the past fifty years gives you confidence that the Congress or President will act in the same interest as citizens and taxpayers of Connecticut?

I wrote probably the only editorial for a mandate in Connecticut – well prior to the Affordable Healthcare Act.

It is necessary to clarify the economic transfer from one group to another, most especially how small businesses and older workers are being force to subsidize Medicaid and Medicare beyond the substantial tax payments they make.

A mandate is needed not to get new healthy payers into the system, but to be sure that people don’t come to insurance only when they are in need of expensive treatments.

A mandate is helpful to have a delivery system built around creating health rather than treating disease but this can be done with or without a mandate.

• Advocates in Connecticut now say 170,000 people out of 3.3 million will gain insurance. Based on other estimates it will likely be closer to 140,000 and a fair number of these probably already qualify for insurance subsidies.

• Connecticut group insurance starts at 2 people and insurers can’t deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions. There are many available options to reduce the issue of pre-existing conditions that plague people without a federal takeover of healthcare.

In exchange for 170,000 people being insured in Connecticut, every premium will receive a 3% tax collected by the federal government –  a few hundred million dollars, much of which will be shipped to Texas, California, North Carolina and Florida. They took jobs because they didn’t offer benefits, now Connecticut citizens and businesses will have to pay their health benefits also.

• Benefit plans will be defined by Washington that are politically and economically acceptable across the country.

• Reimbursements will be reduced, after all doctors and medical facilities in Connecticut are far more advanced that in most other parts of the country. Alabama won’t be brought up to Connecticut’s standards, we will be brought down to an “acceptable” federal level.

• Forget the billboards about an expanding healthcare employment, you will see in Connecticut a large reduction in support workforce to address the reductions in reimbursements.

• Reducing reimbursements is how every healthcare payer would like to manage, the insurers can’t do it easily, they have government, provider and public pushback.

• The federal government has demonstrated through Medicaid and Medicare payments, (60% -75% of private insurers payments) that they are not so restrained.

• Under the current law hospitals will lose payments for uncompensated care – but there will still be as many as two hundred thousand uninsured and there are illegal immigrants.

• Non- insured Illegal immigrants are famously, (including those that the President said could be here without deportation) not provided subsidy in the ACA but they will still receive care in Connecticut.

There is no clear provision for who will pay for them under the law. Under existing law and our more muddled system, they receive care and the state and federal government reimburse through uncompensated care payments.


• While there may not be actual death panels, the law is clear on the fact that after two years, the federal government will decide on the benefit plans people can get.

• Innovative new products and techniques will now be vetted in Washington, not in hospitals and doctor’s offices.

Today innovation and new coverages are often sold to or fought for against insurers. Sometimes states like Connecticut, pass coverage such as for “Dense Tissue” testing to spot breast cancer well before they are accepted widely.

These decisions will ALL be the province of the Federal Government alone. 

• Businesses in Connecticut already suffer from high personnel costs, that have set a permanent anti-employee growth bias, the ACA will only further that problem and put a bias towards outsourcing.

Progressives should take note that they should be mindful of the adage, be careful for what you wish for, you just might get it.