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NATIONAL AND STATE ADVOCATES URGE GOVERNOR RELL TO SIGN FIRST-IN-THE-NATION HEALTH CARE BILL

05/07/2008

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 7, 2008
CONTACT: Austin Guest, aguest@progressivestates.org, 212.680-3116 x 110

NATIONAL AND STATE ADVOCATES URGE GOVERNOR RELL TO SIGN FIRST-IN-THE-NATION HEALTH CARE BILL

VETO THREAT COULD COST LOCAL TAXPAYERS MILLIONS IN SAVINGS

Hartford - The Progressive States Network, a national group that tracks state initiatives to achieve quality and affordable health care, lauded the Senate's passage of the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership (HB 5536) and strongly urged Governor Rell to sign the legislation. Connecticut would be the first state to allow small businesses and municipalities to buy into the non-profit group health plan currently provided to state employees - potentially saving local taxpayers millions of dollars and reducing small employer premiums.

Allowing small businesses, non-profits, and municipalities to join the 200,000 members-strong state plan will foster competition among health insurance carriers and give employers, municipalities and working families the clout they need to negotiate a better deal for health insurance.

"This is a boon for employers and employees alike," said Adam Thompson, a health care expert with the Progressive States Network. "While many states are working to make health insurance affordable, the Healthcare Partnership is unique because, for the first time, it allows both small businesses and municipalities to join forces with the purchasing power of the state employee health plan."

According to the bill's sponsor, House Majority Leader Chris Donovan, the legislation has the potential to reduce New Haven's annual health care expenditures by $8.6 million. East Hartford and Danbury would stand to save $1.1 million and $850,000, respectively. As Rep. Donovan has pointed out, these savings could be put toward property tax relief as well as increased investments in schools, roads, and other municipal infrastructure.

"Health care pooling is a win-win situation," said Sal Luciano, Executive Director of Council 4, AFSCME, which represents 35,000 employees throughout Connecticut. "It's a way to respond to soaring health care costs and to expand quality, affordable coverage to more citizens. It's a way to provide property tax relief and protect services for the elderly and our kids."

Already, the state employee health plan has negotiated a 0-percent increase in rates for next year and saved $54 million.

"This will help level the health insurance playing field by giving employers, municipalities, and working families more choice and control to negotiate better rates from insurance companies," said Paul Filson, Director of the State Employees International Union - Connecticut State Council. "This is sensible, fair, and forward-thinking legislation that ought to receive Governor Rell's support."

Despite the broad support for the Healthcare Partnership, Governor Rell has threatened to veto the legislation.

"Vetoing the pooling bill makes zero sense," continued Council 4's Luciano. "After slashing at least $100 million in aid to our cities and towns and non-profit employers, the least the governor can do is support the Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, at a time when state and local budget deficits threaten the health of our communities."

Increasingly, legislatures and lawmakers in Washington DC are looking at the strength of private-public pooling to lower health care costs. With similar pooling provisions being considered in Kansas, Delaware, Washington, and Wisconsin, the Governor's signature could spark a chain reaction of state-level action to improve access to affordable coverage.

"When the legislature in the state that is known as the insurance capitol of the world overwhelmingly adopts structural reforms that mirror leading presidential candidates' proposals, it should send a clear signal that the country wants real reform," said Phil Sherwood, Communications Director for Connecticut Citizen Action Group and Director of the Health Care for All Coalition in Connecticut. "I'm sure other states will follow our lead."

The Senate's favorable vote on HB 5536 followed passage in the House on April 23rd by an overwhelming majority, 102 to 43. The legislation now goes to Governor Rell for her consideration.

 

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