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SustiNet Supporters Not Giving Up On Public Option

by Christine Stuart | Apr 27, 2011 8:44pm
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Health Care, State Budget, State Capitol

Josalee Thrift photo

SustiNet rally at Union Station

Wearing their signature red shirts, more than 600 people paraded Wednesday from Hartford’s Union Station to the state Capitol where they circled the entire building to show their support for SustiNet.

—More photos

Blowing wooden train whistles they asked lawmakers, most of whom had left the building, to get on the train and support their plan for a public option, which was stripped from the legislation after talks with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

They had thought the first Democratic governor in 20 years would be supportive of their efforts, which started with a veto override of the legislation creating the SustiNet Board of Directors back in 2009. And they were disappointed to learn Malloy in negotiating the budget with Democratic lawmakers decided to pick apart their proposal which would have allow municipalities, nonprofits, small businesses and the uninsured to join the state employee and retiree health insurance pool.

“If you’re asking do I think this year we could move into a Massachusetts model, the answer is no,” Malloy said Monday at a press conference . “I pointed out my differences, but my differences don’t lessen my desire to cut the costs in an effective way.” He said he hasn’t shut the door on a public option in the future, but opposed other parts of the legislation because it took away his office’s power to negotiate health insurance contracts and gave it to a quasi-public agency to manage.

Those at the rally asked Malloy to reclaim his promise to deliver on health care reform by clearing the way for a public option at the appropriate time and in a fiscally responsible manner.

“SustiNet is a centerpiece of that promise,” said Linda St. Peter, a member of the Connecticut Association of REALTORS, said.  “We are well aware of the fiscal challenges and an affordable health care option for small businesses and independent contractors is part of the solution.”

Ellen Andrews, executive director of the CT Health Policy Project, said the compromise creates more silos by adding additional positions to the comptrollers office and putting some of the control under Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who co-chaired the SustiNet Board of Directors prior to her election.

“It’s not dead,” Andrews said of the public option. “That’s why all these red shirts are out here for the public option.”

Juan Figueroa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, which spearheaded the creation of SustiNet, said the rally was a way to make sure the governor understands there’s a movement for a public option.

“That means making sure the way is paved for a public option that meets the needs of small businesses and residents in a timely fashion,” Figueroa said.

Rhona Cohen, an organizer with the Healthcareforevery1 campaign, was carrying a poster quoting Malloy on the campaign trail.

“I want to be perfectly clear. I support a public option. I don’t think we have health care reform without a public option,” Malloy said on Aug. 17, 2010.

Cohen said she’s just trying to hold the governor to his word.

House Speaker Chris Donovan, who worked hard to keep SustiNet in the budget proposal, said “by controlling costs, we help families and can encourage small businesses to create jobs.”

“We’re going to continue to work with the supporters of health care improvements and SustiNet here in Connecticut to make reform stronger and stronger,“ Donovan said. “We need to do what’s in the best interests of all of Connecticut’s residents.” 

Rep. Betsy Ritter, co-chairwoman of the Public Health Committee and another staunch supporter of the original SustiNet proposal, said she was disappointed it was modified, but will keep working to move the proposal forward.

“Through these efforts, our state will be better poised to take advantage of opportunities in the federal health care reforms, bringing affordable health care closer to reality,” Ritter said. “ Increased job opportunities for the state, helping small businesses thrive and grow, and building a stronger economy are just some of the advantages we can look forward to.”

Others in the crowd Wednesday weren’t as accommodating when it comes to compromise.

Wildaliz Bermudez of Hartford who went toe-to-toe with Malloy at a town hall meeting last month said she doesn’t think there should be a compromise.

“It’s unacceptable,” Bermudez said.

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(6) Comments

posted by: Disgruntled | April 28, 2011  8:53am

While I would never pretend to know anything about SustiNet,could anything like this be happening in the great state of Connecticut?
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-pensions-20110428,0,702379.story

posted by: Noteworthy | April 28, 2011  1:05pm

Rallies mean nothing. Can some Susti supporter start talking about the reality of how to pay for it, and what it will actually cost? From billions to hundreds of millions - where’s the money to pay? And please, let’s disabuse ourselves of the curious notion that Susti will lower medical costs or insurance costs. It won’t and clearly under Obama’s plan, it has actually driven those costs up much faster that would have happened organically. It’s time to drop the hype and talk specifically what triggers lower costs and what it will cost taxpayers for Susti if implemented.

posted by: hawkeye | April 28, 2011  9:01pm

SustiNet is currently a clever politically diversion—as there is no money available to fund it until 2014.

At this point, it’s as remote—as planning a trip to the moon!

posted by: ... | April 29, 2011  2:07am

...

What is SustiNet diverting us from specifically? The budget is still center stage in the public’s eyes, ears, and lips. If anything the budget has more potential (and seems to have already) to divert SustiNet as a legislative and policy issue.

posted by: JusticeCT | April 29, 2011  7:29am

Sustinet is CT’s ONLY strategy to cut costs in a big way.  CT is sick of insurance companies “controlling costs” by denying care and enriching themselves.  Sustinet means paying docs to keep us well, not just treat us when we show up in the ER with a crisis.  That’s where the real savings come from long-term—catching illnesses before they get worse and more expensive.  The short-term costs are insignificant - a few million $ investment in longer term health and savings.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 29, 2011  9:25am

GoatBoyPHD

SustiNet’s supporters need to stop the FUD.

Go for 5 simple bullet points:

1) Consoldiation of Medicaid and state policies into 1 policy.

2) A commitment to create a public purchasing portal like Massachussetts using the software being develoepd by the Obama administration in Mass. At least 3 vendors and 3 plans (silver, gold, bronze)

3) A commitment to create an electronics records system where every CT resident is associated with a hospital and can delegate software access to their patient home. The hospitals (and patients) will own the Records System. Hopsitlas required to be on a EMR by 2020, preferaly the same one for new installations.

4) A commitment to smooth out disruptions in policy coverage—resolving various Cobra and subsidy gaps for the recently unemployed and long-term unemployed, etc. A commitment to offer the subsidized working poor policies at least equivalent to Medicaid coverage.

5) Tort Reform.  No fault. Mediation, not lawyers.