A Rookie's "Aha!" Moment

by Staff | January 15, 2007 3:41 PM | | Comments (2)

jason_head_shot.jpgWill universal health care pass in Connecticut by this summer? Jason Bartlett hopes so. He just won a seat in the state legislature from Bethel, as a Democrat running on a pro-universal health care platform. As he writes below, Bartlett, who's a small businessman (he owns a mortgage company), had a revelation at the first gathering of freshman legislators to discuss health-care: While the leaders argue over which kind of universal plan to pass, freshmen could lead a move to start paying for it now. Follow along with Bartlett as he reports on Project Universal Health Care from legislative ground zero.

By Jason Bartlett

We were gathered at the invitation of the Office of Legislative Research, a non partisan research division of the legislature whose responsibility was to give us non-partisan factual information. Experts from Rhode Island, Vermont and Massachusetts explained their state's recently enacted reforms. Each state has attempted to make health care more universal, improve the quality of care, and contain costs.

I surveyed the room, noting how many of the 17 new freshmen legislators were in attendance at this informational meeting. We had a pretty good turnout. Being a freshman, I was eager to learn more about the health care reform issue. One presenter, a Vermont state senator, was particularly unable to hide his Democrat bonafides and frequently quoted Robert Kennedy. I was surprised to see many veteran legislators there. Two Republicans seated behind me would snarl when things sounded political. After listening to his lengthy view on children's rights, I gained a bit of satisfaction by the irritation it caused my Republican colleagues as they mumbled, "I thought this was supposed to be about health care plans" followed by an audible "humph."

The Massachusetts plan is of particular interest to me. From conversations with Democratic legislators, there seemed to be two major plans that will be argued and proposed in the coming session: one similar to the Massachusetts plan and a universal single-payer plan. There will also be a number of bills that are more incremental in nature but with the same goal of making health care more universal. Personally, I am keeping an open mind to determine what makes the most sense to taxpayers and consumers while achieving the goals of universality and affordability.

The million-dollar question (literally) I had for the presenters was affordability. Expense remains Connecticut's biggest obstacle to finding a solution. Massachusetts took considerable time to debate and approve a plan and an additional 24 months to implement it! They forced employers who did not provide employees health coverage to pay into the state's plan, and they forced the uninsured individuals to participate and pay some type of premium based on their income. Additionally, using a confusing and complicated formula (at least to me!), they also reconfigured monies from Medicare and Medicaid.

During a much-needed meeting break, it struck me this is entire process will take a long, long time. No matter what the Connecticut legislature decides, whether in this session or next, it will take time to roll out a new plan and true reform. So I thought of an action plan: we should begin earmarking and investing the funds for health care reform now. It was then I knew we needed to set up a fund for health care reform and drive the debate.

The next day, I called the State Treasurer's office to find out how much they were able to realize for a rate of return last year. The answer: 10.39 percent based on the investment model used for the teacher's pension plan. That sounded pretty good. I asked them to run some numbers. Then I called another freshman and we discussed how to fund health care and drive the policy debate. We agreed to circulate a letter to the speaker of the House and majority leader among fellow freshman. We outlined a proposal to take $125 million from the surplus and $125 million from both the '07-'08 and '08-'09 state budgets. According to the Treasurer's office, a capital gain of $52 million on a $250 million fund and $72 million on a $375 million fund over 24 months could potentially be realized. We decided to use these illustrations to make our case that funds for health care must be earmarked in anticipation of reforms with the added benefit of earning capital gains so as to lessen the burden on taxpayers. In many ways, a very conservative principle!

The letter is being circulated as planned and is finding its way around the freshman class. Governor Rell has since proposed her own reform: health insurance for the uninsured that covers everyone with pre-existing conditions with no medical underwriting for $250 a month. All this, and the state does not have to spend a dollar for the 300,000 to 400,000 uninsured children and adults in Connecticut. Oh, except for the state paying for marketing the plan. As I read her proposal in the morning's paper with my coffee and toast, I kinda wondered, "Would Governor Rell have been one of those snarling legislators sitting behind me?" Humph.


Posted by: Cedar Hill Resident | January 16, 2007 3:16 PM

Thank you for keeping us updated on this very important issue.

Ok I hope what Rell is proposing is not what I am thinking!
I am glad you are spare heading it now!

But sad to say when I read this it was a little over my head. So there are 2 plans on the table. not including Rells joke? Right.??

Strangely I do understand what Mass did. And it seems the most logical to me . But other things that I have heard people bring up when talking about this whole issue are these 2 things (remember I have friends at both ends of the scale ps. you can tell which response is from which end of the scale):

1- If you provide medical to people; instead of them waiting because they do not have medical to take care of them selves (which you would be surprised at how many people do) they will take care of them selves when an illness starts. This in turn will save a lot of money to the state and the hospitals. Why you may ask; because instead of fixing it when it is a $500 illness, they wait until it is an house hospital visit ( at the cost of thousands) and then of course they can not afford to pay the bill if they could not afford the doctor in the first place. So who foots that hospital bill the state or the hospital has to take the loss. I am sure if looked into there is proof that preventive medicine saves money just so long as people have that choose from the get go.
2- Doctors….. and I know I am bad for bringing this up but there insurance is through the roof. People sew doctors for everything, look at mid wives they are becoming a lost art because of this. I realize that the laws are there to protect people and that they should be there but the abuse of those laws is contributing to the high costs of going to the doctors. And I realize there is a group out there I am sure in court at an on going bases fighting this. But if we are addressing the costs of making universal medicine a reality we need to look at everything that affects the costs of the medical profession as well. If we can allow doctor to lower there fees this will without a dought help with making universal medicine more of a reality to even more people.

I worked for one of those people that only provided medical to the employees they choose to provide it to, you would be surprised at how many small business do that. I would get such a joy if employers had to contribute to this personally. Sorry needed to say that. But I do get that it may hurt the small buis. owner.

With my 2 cents thrown in on the table thank you for being part of the fight.

Posted by: ctknows | January 16, 2007 6:27 PM

What are the spending cap issues? or is that the gotcha moment?

Also as they say in the stock market... past performance in the stock market is no idicator to future performance. What if the return is 5% or -5%?

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