Malloy Targets Health Reform

M. Jodi Rell: It costs too much. We don’t have the money. Dan Malloy: It costs too much not to do it.

That basically was where the health care reform debate stood Tuesday between Connecticut’s Republican governor and one of her Democratic potential challengers, as key decisions loomed both in Hartford and D.C.

Malloy, Stamford’s mayor, stopped by Yale-New Haven Hospital to discuss where he differs from Gov. Rell as he pursues an “exploratory committee” campaign for a 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination run. He blasted Rell for vetoing two bills last week aimed at expanding health care coverage. (Click on the play arrow to watch some of his remarks.)

He was on his way to Hartford rally urging Rell to sign two more health bills. She has a midnight Wednesday signing deadline.

Malloy is identifying health care as a key plank to elevate a second gubernatorial run. (He sought the gubernatorial nomination in 2006; he lost in a party primary.)

“There is no more important issue of our time than making sure that individuals who don’t have health care, have health care,” Malloy said in an interview outside the main Yale-New Haven entrance. “There’s no more strategic job creation debate ongoing in our country than how to make health care more affordable.”

At the heart of his and Rell’s differences is the question of whether expanding government coverage and health mandates costs taxpayers more money and blocks economic revival, or saves the state money in the long run and helps businesses to meet their costs.

That’s where they differ on the two bills Rell vetoed on July 2. One would have required the contractors to continue paying health benefits comparable to state employees’ benefits to outsourced custodians at state office buildings. The other would have required insurance companies to offer incentives for participation in wellness programs, eliminate copayments for colonoscopies, and cover the cost of prosthetic devices, hearing aids for teenagers,

The first bill would have “exposed the State to an unknown and unmanageable level of cost,” Rell wrote in her veto message. “… I cannot sanction wages and benefits that are determined completely outside of the state’s control.”

SImilarly, Rell wrote that it would have been “fiscally irresponsible to burden our recovery with” the “significant future costs” required by the second bill.

“We will not quickly return to the days of a booming economy and budget surpluses. We must therefore be fiscally cautious and prudent so as not to place roadblocks in the way of our eventual recovery,” she wrote. “I am hopeful that at some future point we will have reformed both our state government and our healthcare system to achieve the level of cost savings that will allow us to consider coverage expansions such as those provided in this bill.”

Read the full text of the veto messages here and here.

“Those probably would have been cost-saving bills,” Malloy responded Tuesday. The outsourced custodians about to lose health coverage will end up at hospital emergency rooms — the most expensive form of delivering health care — or on the rolls of the state’s HUSKY program, he argued. And prevention programs prevent costly problems down the line, he said.

Similarly, Malloy said costs would be driven down in the long run through the two bills before Rell to sign. One would lead to families joining larger insurance “pools.” The other that would form a study committee aimed at creating a cost-cutting and universal-access plan called SustiNet. Rell has vetoed similar proposals in the past.

“The pooling bill is really in the realm of what we can do drive costs down, not drive costs up,” Malloy argued. “The SustiNet bill would put us in a position to move rapidly” to qualify for federal money if Congress passes a version of President Obama’s health care reform.

Malloy noted that when he ran for governor three years ago, he called for expanding eligibility to HUSKY, the government health insurance plan for low-income families, to 385 percent of the poverty rate. At the time he was criticized for promoting a plan too dependent on federal approval and federal money, especially with a conservative Republican in the White House. He noted Tuesday that since then, 12 states have received federal approval for similar expansions.

“We know that 785,000 people in Connecticut were without health insurance some time in the past two years; 785,000 out of a population of about 3.2 million is a pretty high percentage,” Malloy said. “ … So any injury that struck, any illness that struck, under current law could be exempted under preexisting language in many health care policies.”

Malloy was asked which version he supports of the two main health proposals floating around D.C.: the House of Representatives version, which includes the so-called “public option,” a government insurance plan to compete with private insurers; or the Senate version, which doesn’t. (Click here and here to see where New Haven U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Connecticut U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman stand on that question.)

Mallloy agreed with President Obama, a public option supporter, that private insurers can compete with a government plan — and that they should be required to. He noted that private insurers build in 19-21 percent overhead in their plans, whereas public plans’ overhead ranges from 1 to 3 percent.

“If the free market is so wonderful and so strong, it will respond to that competition,” he argued, and insurers will “find efficiencies so a 19 to 21 percent cut is not necessary to make a reasonable profit.”

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posted by: Wendell on July 7, 2009  5:38pm

Finally, someone who is willing to hone in on an important issue.  Meanwhile, the rest of the press is talking about a calorie counting bill that was vetoed and this health care issue has been all but forgotten.  I am thrilled to see someone like Dan Malloy, who exists outside of Hartford and has done quite well with Stamford, standing up against the mess that has become the capital politics led by our do-nothing-but-veto Governor.

posted by: R. Dickerson on July 7, 2009  6:06pm

Will someone just put an end to the machine that has become Hartford? Just because its written in blue-ink rather than red doesn’t mean it should be vetoed.

Both of these bills are a step in the right direction. Its unfortunate to any of the 300,000 adults who lack affordable health care in our state that to spend another day worrying whether or not they’ll be able to afford proper care if something goes wrong.

Considering the enormous amounts of money that is simply lost to administrative costs, its ridiculous to assume that things will get better.

These new plans aren’t forced down anyone’s throat, private insurers should be able to compete and let the price modulate itself. I’ll admit that I don’t agree with every little piece of these bills, but Malloy is right: we need to pool our resources together to really achieve an affordable, sustainable health care system.

posted by: iBlogWestHartford on July 8, 2009  7:18am

Over the next 12 hours Governor Rell will choose her legacy.

She will decide how she’ll be remembered by our grandchildren.

History could record her as “A champion of the people of Connecticut” and “A Connecticut and American hero in the fight to make health care work for everyone.”

OR,

She can choose to be that woman who came after the crook with the hot tub.

To sign or not to sign SustiNet by today’s midnight deadline . .

posted by: lance on July 8, 2009  9:57am

if you want health care go earn it, don’t ask me to subsidize or pay for it for you.

posted by: iBlogWestHartford on July 8, 2009  11:21am

Someone make a note:

Lance has just opted out of SustiNet.  Let’s hope, for his sake, that he doesn’t have Anthem/Blue Cross insurance.

posted by: Concerned Citizen on July 9, 2009  1:15am

Gov. Jodi Rell has just vetoed the proposed SustiNet Health Plan which was supported overwhelming in the CT Legislature.  The Gov. with this poisonous veto is simply demonstrating that—contrary to the impression she conveyed when she first took office—she is at heart a partisan politician who cares more about maintaining a conservative philosophy than about doing what is right, sensible, humane and best for CT residents. Of course, apart from being wealthy, the Gov. does not have to worry about having the best in health care coverage because we—the CT taxpayers—ensure that the Gov. and her family have the best in health care. We are the ones paying for it.

Sadly, for the more than 800K of us who do not have health care coverage, the Gov. with her veto just condemned many of us to untold hardships; for many it could mean financial ruin.  People in their 50’s and 60’s—who have worked hard all their lives—should NOT have to make a decision between paying their property taxes, and paying for health insurance. Nor should those who have the VERY costly COBRA (the biggest extortion racket in the health care coverage business) have to decide between paying the $400-500 per month premium (for a single person) and buying groceries.  For many that is exactly what it comes down to. Many people take half dosage of meds so they will last longer; that could damage their health. Gov. Rell does not have to do that.

And NO Lance, no one is asking for a handout; no one is asking the govt to provide free health care. Of course, it is done in more civilized countries. Given what we pay in property, state and sales taxes, those who barely exist on mimimum wage should have their health benefits subsidized so that we, the public, do not have to pick up their entire health care costs.  And we do Lance.  When hospitals provide “free care” to anyone, those of us who pay for our care are also paying for the free care provided to others. The fees charged to us are calculated based on the total overhead costs of providing care.

Ignorance of how our health care system works in CT and in the USA is one of our biggest handicaps. The for-profit health industry (which wants to maintain a min. of 25%  and have a mark-up rate for some drugs and services of over 1,225%) are counting on the ignorance (and the inattention) of a large segment of the population, and the greed and vulnerability of many politicians to maintain their hefty profit margins. Why do you think they are willing to spend billions in lobbying fees to prevent passage of a federal plan? It is about their wealth & GREED! They do not care about the financial status or the health of the average American. In fact, the sicker we get the better they like it. Just look at the health-related advertisements! Why do they do it? It works!

This is why more of us need to become truly health literate.  We need to make it a point to understand how the system works and who dictates the financial impact on all of us.  They are now campaigning against President Obama because they want his efforts to fail in the same way those of the Clintons did. We -the people - NEED to become more engaged and better informed. The politicians are supposed to be working for us not for the highly paid lobbyists in DC and Hartford and in every legislative capitol in the country.

Let us TAKE A STAND and fight for and demand health care reform so that every American who wants it can have access to affordable health care.  There is an excellent program on public access called “21st Century Conversations.”  This program provides valuable information about health care and encourages residents to become involved and to be proactive in maintaining health and well-being.

It is more important than ever that we learn how to effectively care for ourselves and our loved ones. “21st Century Conversations” airs on many public access stations throughout CT. In NH, Hamden & WH, it is on Comcast Chan. 26, Sun. at 6-7PM. It is also on all Shoreline stations on Comcast Chan. 18, and on AT&T UVerse Chan. 99 (dropdown menu); then go to NHTV or Branford Community TV. If you have AT&T UVerse, you can pick up these stations from any place in CT. The programs air multiple times weekly.

Contact your state and federal legislators and tell them you want health care reform NOW.  Also learn about the programs being done by OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc. encouraging people to learn how to care for themselves. These programs are more important than ever.  More and more of us cannot afford to go to the doctor. Therefore, we must be vigilant about maintaining health and well-being at every stage of life. We need to learn all that we can and apply the knowledge to our daily lives. Clearly, Gov. Rell is not thinking about our health.