State Officials Reach Truce In Health Care Plan Dispute
Charter Oak, HUSKY Plans Separated
November 26, 2008
Calling a temporary truce to their recent war of words, top state officials gathered Tuesday in a meeting that clarified that Gov. M. Jodi Rell's controversial Charter Oak health care plan is no longer linked to the popular HUSKY plan for children.
The state social services department and Democratic legislators have clashed for months over Rell's Charter Oak plan, which has been slow to attract doctors because of low reimbursement rates.
Despite a previous statement to the contrary, Social Services Commissioner Michael Starkowski made it clear that doctors can now enroll in HUSKY without being required to also enroll in Charter Oak, which only covers those 19 to 64. They can choose to join either program or both.
"The administration unequivocally and significantly clarified that these two programs are de-linked," said Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. "This step is a major, positive, welcome policy change. ... We want Charter Oak to succeed. It fulfills a need of paramount importance. We want to be very positive and constructive about both programs."
Tuesday's meeting was called by Rell to clear the air after Starkowski filed freedom of information requests against Blumenthal, Health Care Advocate Kevin P. Lembo, state Sen. Jonathan Harris, D- West Hartford, and others in an attempt to learn why they had criticized Rell's Charter Oak plan. Those requests were not discussed at the meeting, and all sides participated in a joint press release announcing that everyone was happy after the meeting.
The sweeping FOI requests were viewed as unprecedented between a state agency and legislators. They covered all e-mails, memos, telephone messages, and written correspondence over the past 16 months regarding Charter Oak and HUSKY. They also included any correspondence between the state officials and Sheldon Toubman, a New Haven legal assistance lawyer, as well as Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut, a well-known insurance company.
The FOI requests still stand, and Harris said he is working to comply with the request for all communications that he has had regarding Charter Oak and HUSKY.
"That piece is still perplexing and disturbing to me," Harris said. "I hope we can move beyond it. ... It's a bad feeling in my stomach and casts a pall on the process. We'll address the FOI issue separately."
Harris said he was pleased that Rell called Tuesday's meeting and predicted that the de-linkage will succeed because the linkage "was dragging down the already successful HUSKY program."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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