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SustiNet Bill Advances In Legislature

Public Health Committee Modifies Health Reform Bill Slightly

Rinker Buck

March 07, 2011

The SustiNet health bill cleared a hurdle in the General Assembly on Monday when the public health committee voted 16-10 to approve it with minor changes.

Under SustiNet, Connecticut would create large pools of health care users, such as state workers and people covered by the Medicaid and HUSKY programs, to leverage savings on care. The legislation also would centralize and coordinate each patient's care under one doctor, and create diversified group practices that would lower costs by providing better care and coordination of services to patients.

The health committee deleted a provision from the bill that would have protected doctors providing care under SustiNet from malpractice lawsuits, as long as they had followed proper procedures approved by the plan. This provision raised concerns that the bill would create a double standard for malpractice suits one for SustiNet doctors and patients, and one for everyone else.

"There was a lot of testimony in the public hearing on the bill that the courts would just have too hard a time unraveling this provision," said state Rep. Elizabeth B. Ritter, D-Waterford, co-chairwoman of the committee. "The provision would have used a bill to create a whole new health care system for Connecticut to solve a completely different problem, the malpractice issue. We decided it was best to deal with that some other time with a separate bill."

The committee also removed another provision from the SustiNet bill that would have exempted foundations from registering as lobbyists if they donated money to support the implementation of health care reform. Ritter said that the committee concluded that a debate over the lobbying status of foundations supporting health care reform would have been a distraction from the core provisions of the bill.

State Sen. Jason Welch, R-Bristol, ranking member of the public health committee, said the parts of Sustinet that "may provide meaningful reform can be implemented without a public option and without creating a quasi-public agency that will cost tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. We ought to try those reforms first before creating a system that could collapse under its own weight."

The SustiNet bill will be considered by six more legislative committees. The insurance committee is expected to take it up within two weeks.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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