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Connecticut's SustiNet Proponents Say Plan To Move Forward Despite Federal Health Care Bill

By MATTHEW STURDEVANT

March 23, 2010

New federal health care laws will force some changes to a state SustiNet health care law passed last year despite Gov. M. Jodi Rell's veto.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to sign federal legislation today that will accomplish some of the goals covered in Connecticut's SustiNet law. To make sure the state law conforms to new federal legislation, the nine-member SustiNet board has 60 days to compare the two and present a bill to the state legislature.

If the federal law hadn't passed, the SustiNet board would have had until January 2011 to draft legislation. The board now has two months to design a plan to provide coverage to about 350,000 uninsured state residents, increase the options of private insurance available to individuals and businesses, curb the trend of growing medical costs, and improve quality and access.

"It's going to be a lot of technical changes, but I think there's going to be some substantive stuff in there," said Victoria L. Veltri, general counsel for the state Office of the Healthcare Advocate.

Rell's office has estimated that universal care could cost Connecticut $1 billion a year. While enrollment wouldn't start until 2012, the program comes as the state faces a deficit of $3.2 billion to $3.7 billion, depending on which estimate is used.

"There is no SustiNet plan. Frankly, there's not $1 billion or $2 billion to spend on it," said Keith Stover, a spokesman for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, the lobbying group for insurers.

But the nonprofit Universal Health Care Foundation has said that economic modeling of SustiNet by the Urban Institute in Washington and by an economics professor at MIT show it will be competitive.

Frances G. Padilla, acting president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, said SustiNet will be funded "the same way we fund health insurance now" through premiums paid by individuals, but also subsidies and tax credits from the state and federal governments.

But it's still not clear how much will come from government subsidies and how much will come from premiums.

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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