SustiNet Explained

b%20tinney.JPGThe director of a small non-profit in New Haven was worried about that a new state universal health plan might mean she’d have a harder time covering her older, less healthy workers. She was relieved to find out that’s not how it would work.

Barbara Tinney (pictured above) is executive director of the New Haven Family Alliance, learned those details during a nitty-gritty discussion of a proposal before the state legislature called SustiNet. The discussion took place Thursday night during a live airing of “21st Century Conversations” on CTV.

SustiNet, among other features, would expand a government health insurance program to bring in employees of not-for-profits and many others who are uninsured or underinsured right now. Many people would have a choice of choosing the new plan or sticking with an older private plan.

Tinney said she feared that her younger, healthier employees would go on that public program while her agency woudl end up paying more money to cover the less healthy workers. Tinney learned that under SustiNet, all the employees of a business or nonprofit would have to join together, or none could. That’s part of the bill that passed the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee in late March. Ihe point is to prevent the cherrypicking of healthy individuals by any insurance provider.

SustiNet was proposed by the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut. It was the culmination of more than two years of meetings with people from all walks of life with every kind of health coverage or lack thereof. It would create a large insurance pool to bargain for lower rates for currently uninsured or underinsured people; cut health costs through digitizing medical records linked to a central database; create “medical homes” that offer patients round-the-clock central coordination of their health care as well as guidance in managing it; and require “periodic quality review” of providers and “evidence-based medicine. Click here for mroe details.

wessel%20and%20fontana.JPGSustiNet was spearheaded by the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut after more than two years of meetings with people from all walks of life with every kind of health coverage or lack thereof. Paul Wessel represented the foundation on Thursday night’s CTV program. Democratic North Haven State Rep. Steve Fontana (pictured to Wessel’s right) was also on the “hot seats” in the studio, peppered with questions from host N’Zinga Shani and a dozen people in the audience. Shani mentioned that Republican State Sen. Len Fasano had also been invited and his office confirmed his attendance, but didn’t show up.

Sue Feldman runs the Village of Power in Dixwell, which supports women working on their recovery from addictions. Some are on SAGA, the state health insurance plan for low income adults. “There’s a terrible process called the ‘spend down,’” she said, in which those on SAGA undergo redeterminations of eligibility, and those making just over the very low income limit lose their health coverage. She said if her clients go to jail they lose their coverage, and it’s a nightmare to get back on when they are released. Would SustiNet improve their lives? she wanted to know.

The answer was that SustiNet is portable. That coverage moves with an individual through job changes, family changes (like divorce) and other personal changes. It would also not deny coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions.

Others on the panel expressed concern about a lack of dentists who will see low-income children on the HUSKY plan; about young adults who have no coverage and end up using hospital emergency departments for their care; about would-be entrepreneurs who can’t afford to leave a steady job to develop their brilliant ideas because they need their employer-paid health benefits; about the emphasis on illness, not on wellness.

paul%20wessel%20cu.JPGWessel explained that SustiNet would bring state employees, Husky and SAGA users together in one large, self-insured health plan, that could gradually expand to include the uninsured and under-insured, the self-employed, and employees of small businesses, municipalities and non-profits.

After the show, Fontana explained that the bill must pass through several more committees before coming up for a vote on the floor of the state House and Senate. When a reporter asked if it could possibly pass this year, he responded that certain pieces are likely to pass. Possible examples are creating a medical home for patients, digitizing health records, and uniting state employees, Husky and SAGA users into a bigger pool. Then supporters could keep advocating for the whole plan. “It’s time,” he told an audience member, “to make some noise” in favor of significant health care reform.

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posted by: iBlogWestHartford on April 17, 2009  10:27am

Connecticut’s economy needs this bill. 

For the first time, our small businesses would have access to decent, affordable health care coverage.

These small businesses create 8 out of 10 new jobs in the state.  But with premiums rising so fast, they can’t afford the insurance that would keep their employees - and themselves - safe from poor health AND from bankruptcy. They can’t grow. They can’t survive.

Since 2001, more than 15% of the state’s small businesses have had to eliminate health benefits.  If a business has fewer than 25 workers, those workers are twice as likely to be uninsured. 

FACT: NO comprehensive health care reform = NO economic recovery = NO security for any of us. 

For years, and this year again, we’ve heard excuses from the people profiting by selling over-priced, increasingly-useless insurance products about WHY real reform is impossible; WHY we have to go even more slooooowly; WHY “It’s all government’s fault!”; WHY “We DESERVE our high profits and multi-million-dollar executive salaries and our bonuses and our private planes.” 

Anything to delay reform that will keep Connecticut physically AND fiscally healthy. 

Sure, those who hate government and everything it does (fight fires? kill hostage-holding pirates?) will whine.  That’s what they do best. They all should have a cup of tea and chill.

Sure, true believers in completely unregulated markets for financial services (can you spell “A-I-G?”) will tell us to “Just wait another 20 years - competition will lead to coverage for everyone.”  Apparently, they slept through the last year of obscene corporate greed, corruption and self-induced collapse.

And, as always, insurance industry flacks will talk up their “sincere concern for all of humanity” and the absolute NECESSITY to maintain the status quo.  After all, that’s what they’re paid for (by OUR premiums).

Please. We’re tired of it and we’re bored by it and we stopped believing it a long time ago.  Half the people who lost their homes in Connecticut in the last year listed medical debt as a key reason for their financial collapse.

Let’s all stop complaining and pass an effective health care reform bill this year.

posted by: City Hall Watch on April 17, 2009  11:29am

Sustinet is a nice, even admirable stab at healthcare reform. But Sustinet doesn’t define the cost or what level of financial support will be required of taxpayers. It does say if you have a payroll of more than $318K which is not a very high threshold, you will have to provide insurance to your employees or you will have to pay into Sustinet. While iBlog waxes eloquent on small businesses and those who have cut healthcare and other expenses including pension contributions to stay afloat, Sustinet will now be layered on. How does that drive economic recovery?

posted by: iBlogWestHartford on April 17, 2009  2:21pm

To the quickest (typing-wise) defender of our health care status quo,

I agree.  SustiNet is admirable.  Also, thanks for the complement about my eloquence (I learned it in public schools.) And, yes, we certainly need to be concerned about burdens placed upon our state’s businesses.

Here are some facts to calm your worries:

ÔÉò According to the best health economists in the nation, in its first full year of operation SustiNet would cost state government $950 million while producing a savings of $1.35 billion for state employers and $540 million for households.  It would also attracting $800 million in new federal dollars.  That’s a return of better than $2.80 for every dollar spent. Oh - and we will have insured almost every person in Connecticut.  (BTW: If you’ve got solidly-researched numbers that contradict these, please share them here!)

ÔÉò According to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s latest survey, 94% of state businesses offer health care benefits. So the vast numbers of companies with payrolls over $318,000 DO offer benefits—they simply can’t afford what they offer, or have had to cut it to the bare-bones, or can’t hire new workers.  These businesses would not acquire a new cost center.

ÔÉò What the overwhelming majority of Connecticut businesses WOULD find under SustiNet is that their insurance costs go down, the benefits are more comprehensive, and their employees are healthier and significantly more productive.  In fact, when SustiNet is fully in place, state employers as a whole will spend $1.26 billion dollars LESS per year on health care than they would spend under our dear, familiar friend - the status quo.

That’s how you drive an economy.

posted by: OneWorld Progressive Institute on April 19, 2009  1:05am

This “21st Century Conversations” TV program OneWorld did on April 16, was intended to start a community conversation about the need for a comprehensive and portable health plan that will close the large gaps that exist now, and in the longer term reduce the extremely high cost of HC in CT.  Health care coverage is not a luxury; it is a necessity; it is morally and ethically just.  How can we call ourselves a civilized society and deny HC coverage to a large segment of our population?  What type of society do we want?  There are people working two part-time jobs and have no health care!

We commend those community leaders and residents in New Haven who showed up for the conversation and who are leading by example. We understand that people lead very busy lives; this is why we say a special thanks to those who made it to the CTV studio.  In addition to Barbara Tinney, exec. dir., NH Family Alliance, there was Merryl Eaton, Christian Community Action; Susan Feldman, Clinical Coordinator, Village of Power; Amos Smith, President & CEO, Community Action Agency, and our two panelists and people from the community.

We in CT will not get very far if we start off fighting about what is wrong with SustiNet as it is presented. We at OneWorld doubt that the health care crisis (in terms of cost and coverage) can be adequately resolved only by a single payor system.  The health indices problems we face as a society are HUGE! and need a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach that will be years in the making; however, we need to start somewhere, and we need to start NOW. This must of necessity involve all of us and:
  a.  Intensive health literacy programs and a behavior-driven model of personal responsibility; negligent & uninformed behaviors drive up costs. 
  b. Not having health coverage drives up cost; when an employer denies an employee adequate benefits, or when someone cannot afford health coverage and must use the ER as a primary care service, that drives up cost; also, when people without insurance wait until they are so ill that they have to be hospitalized, that drives up cost
and everyone pays. Hospitals distribute those costs to everyone who has insurance & to the govt.

  c. Drug manufacturers, researchers, lobbying and the profit guidelines and motives drive up cost.
  d. The structure and functions of hospitals and their staffs drive up cost.  We seldom see cooperative care models, but we see competitive models and that drive up cost; each is trying to out-do the other. How many hospitals share doctors unless they are in a group owed by the same cartel?  There are many other critical factors that drive up health care costs.

Therefore, there are many things to be discussed and worked through.  The point is—we need to make a constructive start rather than throwing up all of the possible negatives; let us work on the benefits of a healthy and productive society because in the long run we will ALL be better off. The comments by IBlog are very valid; let us have as a goal a more equitable and healthy CT. That means people having affordable health care.

The Universal Health Care Foundation of CT serves as a catalyst to promote Universal Access to Health Care in Connecticut and beyond. Learn more about them by visiting:
Call (203) 659-0550

CT Office of the Healthcare Advocate
Assists consumers with health care issues through the establishment of effective outreach programs visit them at:

Email: Healthcare.Advocate or
Write to: Office, Healthcare Advocate
P.O.BOX 1543. Hartford CT. 06144
Phone:  (860) 297-3992.

We encourage pastors and community agencies to hold discussion groups and invite in your state representatives and senators and others who are informed to help to sort through and better understand what SustiNet means for all of us. Call the Democrats at 800-842-1420, and the Republicans at 800-842-1421.

Our focus is on informing the community. We will try to post updated information on our web site at:
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Write to us at: Producer, OneWorld, Inc.
P.O. Box 8662, New Haven, CT 06531

Our TV program “21st Century Conversations” are on most public access stations in southern & western CT.
Remember, the bill that came out of the Public Health committee on March 26, 2009 is a starting point.  The vote was 22-8. There is a great deal of work to be done.  It is imperative that CT residents, whether we have good health coverage or not, become engaged in the conversation about the need for adequate HC coverage for ALL. At least let us become truly informed.

When we have 800K people without health coverage, and others with inadequate coverage, we are all affected in one way or another. As a state, we will never realize our full potential when a significant percentage of our population are so negatively affected.  Please let us be proactive and be among the healthiest in the nation.

posted by: Susan Feldman on April 20, 2009  12:43pm

It is still unclear how this would benefit people who are on SAGA or disability, and who lose their insurance coverage if they do not do their redetermination, or who go on a ‘spend down’ if they receive more money (I think it is close to $500 a month) which is a clear barrier to insurance coverage.  These people avoid seeking services and in doing so increase their chances of exacerbating chronic conditions or acute conditions which later on will require more costly care.  I wonder why we are not looking towards a socialized way of delivering medicine which deconstructs all barriers to medical care by giving everyone care as a national right.

The United States is supposed to be the leader of the free world; we are supposed to be setting the example for democracy; yet we rank (at best by leading experts) number 15 among the top 19 industrialized nations in terms of access and efficiency in health care; some studies rank us at #17 in access to health care. We are only #1 in terms of the cost of health care.

This proposed system just seems to us like another bureaucratic structure which will develop its own exclusions and barriers for the poor and the uninsured.  What we need is a system that truly simplies access and continuity and reduce the stress associated with not having guaranteed health coverage. 

We need an equitable health care access and delivery system that does not further punish the poor and disadvantaged.  In designing the system there needs to be real input from those who are most affected.  There also needs to be more emphasis on health education.  Let us develop a comprehensive system that meets people where they are and help them to address their health needs in a more effective manner.

Lastly, we appreciated the opportunity to ask questions and to have heard from state representative Steve Fontana and Mr. Wessel from Universal Health Foundation. We also thank OneWorld Progressive Institute and N’Zinga Shani for putting on the forum for the community.  We need a lot more information, and those designing the SustiNet program need to do more reaching out to the broader community for input.

posted by: lance on April 21, 2009  7:25am

SustiNet Explained?

I’ll expain in to you.  It’s when one group of people get shaken down to pay the medical coverage of another group.  Any questions?

posted by: Concerned Citizen on April 21, 2009  2:40pm

It is very easy to spout ignorance; anyone can do it.  Ignorance is truly bliss; it requires no real thinking through the issues involved; ignorance does not require an evaluation of the facts in a situation. These are the reasons why much of our social discourse is so frought with irresponsible statements and equally irresponsible behaviors.  Sadly, we hear less often from our responsible and thoughtful citizens because they take the time to get the facts before they spout ignorant statements.  Those who are ill-informed simply spout.

There are 30 countries which are members of the Organizations for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  These are countries that have agreed to work cooperatively on a variety of measures. The USA became a member in 1961. Many of us consider the USA #1 on most social, economic, education and other areas of enlightened development.  Yet, if we look critically on a per capita basis at various measures among these 30 countries, we are not #1. When it comes to equity in health care access and in some other social measures, we are the only country in the “developed world” except for South Africa, that does NOT provide access to affordable health care for all of its citizens. We are the ONLY so-called “enlightened” country where people can work everyday, and work two jobs and NOT have access to affordable health care.

What if those of us who do not have children decided that we should not have to pay taxes to support public schools? What would happen to the public school system in America? Should we not educate the children of the poor or all those who benefit from our public schools? Granted, we have not done a very good job in educating more people how to think critically. We are one society, we need to look at aggregate benefits.  Health care is a right; we also need to teach people how to be more proactive in maintaining health and well-being.

The bottom line is—as a society, we are all affected when any significant percentage of Americans cannot realize their full potential. 

Pregnant women who cannot get good nutrition and medical care give birth to mal-nourished infants who will require special costly care throughout life.  We can pay a little up front early and have more healthy vibrant children who will grow up to be an asset, or we can pay a much higher cost later.  Let us invest in our citizens early and reap the positive returns as a society later. Let us think comprehensively and intelligently about the future of the USA.  If we are already spending the most for health care let us find a way to get the maximum return on those dollars by investing them more equitably and more intelligently. Let us really be #1 in measures that count.

posted by: Spencer Family on April 21, 2009  9:01pm

Access to Affordable Health Care Should Be a Right for Every American. Whether we call it SustiNet of something else - it is TIME for Universal Health Coverage in CT and in the USA. Let us become a truly equitable society.

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the World Health Organization report done in 2000, which compared health care systems in 29 countries, the USA has the most expensive health care system in the world.  In terms of ACCESS to health care: The U.S. is “the only country in the developed world, except for South Africa, that does not provide health care for all of its citizens.” Stephen M. Ayers, M.D.; Health Care in the United States: The Facts and the Choices

May 15, 2007 | Volume 59 - (Excerpted from Report by the Commonwealth Fund)
The U.S. health system is the most expensive in the world, but comparative analyses consistently show the United States underperforms relative to other countries on most dimensions of health care outcomes that were featured in the U.S. health system scorecard issued by the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a High Performance Health System.

Among the six nations studied—Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  The U.S. ranks last; it did in the 2006 & 2004 editions of Mirror, Mirror. Most troubling, the U.S. fails to achieve better health outcomes than the other countries, and the U.S. is last on dimensions of access, patient safety, efficiency & equity and health outcomes. 

The most notable way the U.S. differs from other countries is the ABSENCE of Universal Health Insurance Coverage. Other nations ensure the accessibility of care through universal health insurance systems and through better ties between patients and the physician practices that serve as their long-term “medical home.”  It is not surprising, therefore, that the U.S. substantially underperforms other countries on measures of access to care, and equity in health care between populations with above-average and below average incomes.

The reasons for the especially high cost of health care in the US can be attributed to a number of factors including: the rising cost of medical technology, prescription drugs and high administrative costs; the growing shift from non-for-profit to for-profit health care providers   and to the complex multiple payer system.

We have an example in New Haven. Competition and duplication of services between Yale and Saint Raphael also drive up health care costs.  NH does not need two large hospitals providing duplicate services and have one being in financial difficulties.  Competition rather than cooperation; hospitals have lost sight of their mission and of what is best for the people they serve, and what is best for our economy. Like the financial raiders of Wall Street, some health care administrators have lost sight of what is best for everyone and not just for their shop.

Disparities in Infant Mortality Rates: According to 2005 data from the Center for Disease Control, black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die before age one than white infants.  “In 2005, 13.26 black infants died per 1,000 live births, which is similar to the rate in some developing nations, the Journal reports.”

Dr King has been dead for 41 years, and the statement he made decades ago is still true and applicable today.  When are we going to change it? Access to affordable health care - anything less is barbaric! It is un-American.  We fully agree with the people at OneWorld and at Universal Health. Everyone NEEDS to join this cause; it is ethical and moral and right. If there is a shake-down, it is by the big conglomerates that want to make larger profits; it is not by the average citizen who expects a democratic society to be democratic for them also.

posted by: M.W. on April 27, 2009  2:58pm

It is important that we the citizens of CT be informed about the benefits of healthy living.  We need to be helped to understand how to live our best lives everyday. If we invest in health care literacy and education early we will avoid some of the pitfalls of poor health.  A healthy community will lead to a more healthy and wealthy state and society. For these reasons it is important for all of us to learn exactly what SustiNet will do for us.  The Universal Health Foundation, the state legislature, our many churches and community organizations should work together to help our communities to develop effective information and health education programs so that we can reduce the costs of health care.

We need to be forearmed so that we are adequately forwarned.

posted by: L. Rao on April 27, 2009  3:31pm

So many individuals and their dependents suddenly loose their health insurance plan benefits due to job loss and cannot afford COBRA premiums required to continue their ex-employer’s medical benefit plan.  Direct-to-consumer health insurance plans can be even more costly with fewer benefits, higher copays and deductibles and low coverage limits (maximum dollar amount that plan will cover.) SustiNet is on the right track if it will allow plan benefits to be portable when there is a change in individual’s employment status.

posted by: L. Melendez on April 27, 2009  4:49pm

I sincerely hope that this time something practical and worthwhile will come of SustiNet.  The types of dilemma that so many families face due to a lack of access to adequate health care in the USA is appalling.  Imagine losing your house due to health care bills.  Imagine not being able to get coverage under medicaid because you earn $300 more for an antire year than the guidelines say you can earn!  Yey we call ourselves a progressive and democratic country?

It is mind-boggling that we have so many “alleged” smart people in our political system, yet we cannot seem to find our way (as a country) to provide affordable and effective health care coverage for all of our citizens.  The question is—what do we really value?  It is TIME for all residents of CT and the entire USA to have access to good health care.  PLEASE do not allow the naysayers—and those who are selfish and blind to the benefits of having a healthy society—to dominate this time around.

posted by: Frightened on May 1, 2009  4:56pm

Today in 2009 it is very difficult to get a job. At some places to get a job you must submit evidence of a clean bill of health. Years ago a potential employer would pay for a candidate to get a physical; now we have to pay for the physical ourselves. To get a free physical at a clinic we have to sign up and wait months for an appointment; by then the job is gone. How can those of us without health benefits ever get ahead? I do not know why people are not in the street demanding that everyone be covered.

I do not understand what is the objections Republicans have to people having health care; don’t they understand that unless we are healthy we cannot get and keep a job.  I am asking all of the politicians to think long and hard about this issue.  It is truly criminal that there are Americans who have to decide between feeding their families or a regular basis versus having health coverage.  This is not right. We need to get SustiNet Now.

posted by: Laura on May 3, 2009  3:46pm

There seems to be a great disconnect between elected officials and their constituents in CT and elesewhere.  MA is the major exception. The Republicans have been able to kill every measure that tries to bring about universal health care in the USA.  Remember the Clintons in 1996.  How can the insurance companies be more powerful than the people who vote for and elect those who are in the CT legislature and the national Congress?

Why is it that the national media is not doing a better job of focusing on health care issues?  Why aren’t we seeing more factual stories about what is happening in peoples’ lives because they have no health care, or because large business organizations and health facilities have imposed unconscionable hardships on people such as putting liens on their homes for health care bills?  Who in some of the smaller countries (where America is providing help) would believe that right here in America millions of people have to decide between putting food on the table, paying mortgage, and having health coverage!!!?

OneWorld places emphasis on health literacy and Civic Engagement; however, people in Greater New Haven and in CT do not seem to be getting truly engaged around this issue of universal health care for everyone.  Those who work for organizations that provide health benefits seem totally unconcerned about the issue.  I say to them: wait until you lose your job and have to come up with large sums of money every month to pay for COBRA; the program that sucks you dry of every dollar you have.  Wake up people! Get involved with SustiNet.  Call your state representative! Access to health care is IMPORTANT for the benefit of everyone; do not be selfish. FIGHT for universal health care for everyone in CT.  PLEASE.

posted by: Barbara on May 3, 2009  11:06pm

I read this article and the comments and it makes me sad.  I do not think we will ever have universal health care in CT in the life time of anyone over the age of 30.  Why?  Because the big insurance companies, the large hospitals, and the CT Business and Industry Assn are all opposed to it.  We the citizens do not have any lobbyists to speak on our behalf, and most of us are too busy to pay attention to what is happening.  Those of us who work in organizations that provide good benefits really do not care about those who do not.  Unless something directly affect us, we do not pay attention to it.  Too bad.

posted by: bfriar on May 4, 2009  12:41pm

SustiNet is a great first step in achieving universal coverage for the citizens of CT.  Care and caution must be taken that it is developed in a holistic fashion.  There are so many entitlement programs and psuedo insurance plans in place at the moment that have narrow coverage and don’t address the problem of access to care.  If Sustinet is to survive the committees of cogniznance in the state legislature, DSS, DPH and health advocates must be on the same page.  Small successes to start will be better than backroom fillibusters.

posted by: William on May 5, 2009  12:02am

MA got universal coverage under a Republican Gov.  There is no reason CT cannot get SustiNet; however, MA also has Ted Kennedy who has the courage and the determination to fight for what he knows to be right for the people of MA. In CT we seem to lack elected officials willing to fight really hard and mobilize consituents to bring about positive change.

CT is one of the wealthiest states in the nation!  Why do we have so many people (last count about 840K) without health insurance?  Universal Health Foundation alone cannot do this; we need committed community organizers; people who can be in the neighborhoods organizing people.  We need the churches; NH has more churches than any place else.  Where are the pastors?  We have BIG churches such as Immanuel, Church-on-the-Rock, three churches on the Green, Battel Chapel (with many bright Yale people). Where are the organizers? Where are senators Looney & Harp on this issue? Where are Toni Walker, Pat Dillon, Cameron Staples & Joe Crisco? How are the community to get behind something when there are no leaders of the movement?  Sad indeed.

posted by: Cindy on May 6, 2009  12:51pm

We applaud OneWorld Progressive Institute for presenting this TV education program about SustiNet. OneWorld seems truly dedicated to providing the community with good health-related information. However, to get that information to us, OneWorld needs the experts to come on the programs and serve as guests. What I am puzzled by is - where are the experts? Why aren’t we hearing more from members of the CT Legislature? 

I understand that all of the Democrats on the public health committee voted to support SustiNet; all of the Republicans voted against it.  While on the surface that might be just business as usual, this matter of the health and wellbeing of CT residents is far too important to be left to “business as usual.”  We all need to WAKE UP and hold our elected officials responsible for doing their jobs. With the POWER they have comes responsibilities.

There has not been much public information given about SustiNet; that leads to the question—who is fully committed to this universal health plan?  Senator Harp is one of the people on whom we could always rely to take the lead on health care; however, to the best of my knowledge, she has been silent of this SustiNet Plan.  Why is that?  I asked and was told that OneWorld made numerous attempts to get legislators from both sides to participate on the TV program so that we, the community, could hear from both sides why they support, or why they oppose.  I also understand that it was budget time so Sen. Harp could not participate, but what about all of the other legislators? The only person who cared enough to show up was Rep. Steve Fontana. How can we, the public, support or oppose something that we do not understand?

May be that is the whole idea—for SustiNet to die then they, the legislators, will say they passed a bill but the public did not get behind it. It is sad when we cannot trust our elected reps.  I have never seen anything like this. We are getting no public information except for this one TV program done by OneWorld on CTV. SHAME! When the next election cycle comes around we the voters should remember this.  Near to election time those seeking office are everywhere pandering for votes.  However, when they need to take on the tough challenges, they are no where to be found.

Something suspicious is going on with this legislation. If all the Republicans in the CT Legislature are opposed to it, they should have the courage and the public will to come out and say why. It seems that locally and nationally the Republicans are simply throwing hissyfits because they can no longer dictate everything; that is not good enough. As elected reps you all (Dems & Reps)have obligations to SERVE your constituents.  Get out into the community and talk to us.  We NEED health care coverage in CT.  If SustiNet is a good plan, tell us why.  If you oppose SustiNet, tell us why; next, come up with something better and helpful; that is your job.

posted by: Dotty on May 7, 2009  2:06am

I am glad that I came upon this article because I have been hearing a little about SustiNet.  I would like to know if this plan is going to cover dental, and optical. Many of these plans require that you pay for dental and eye exams separately; that is a big burden for people who are financially strapped to have to bear.

I don’t know enough about SustiNet to decide if it is the best plan for us in CT; however, we need something that is affordable and accessible to everyone who don’t already have private insurance; it is really high time.

posted by: Traci on May 7, 2009  1:26pm

Having a health plan that we can take with us when we change jobs is a wonderful idea, but how exactly will this portability really work?  If I get this plan now while I am with employer A, or if I get the plan on my own, I then get a job with employer B and I want to keep my SustiNet plan, will employer B pay the premium?  Or will employer B be obligated to give me the amount he would pay for me in the company’s plan, so that I can continue to pay for my sustiNet coverage?  It seems to me that these issues need to be clarified.  Also, the public needs more details about SustiNet.  Everything is too quiet.

posted by: Mike on May 9, 2009  3:32pm

Here are some of the points being made about SustiNet.  However, there is no one to answer questions about the details. There are no public information sessions where we, the public, can get more detailed information.  We NEED a comprehensive health plan; we also need to understand what it is we are supporting. Does anyone remember Lowell Weicker’s State income tax?  It was supposed to get us out of the financial hole we were in, and it was supposed to be TEMPORARY! The State Dept. of Rev. Service still use that income tax to rip people off decades later. We cannot TRUST the state.

1. SustiNet is supposed to save money for individuals and businesses! Show us how.
2. Shares responsibility for costs- We hope so
3. SustiNet is designed to control health care spending and save money for those hurt most by our
broken health care system - small businesses and individuals with no insurance or inadequate
coverage.  We need public information sessions.
4. By 2014, when SustiNet is fully implemented, it will save individuals and businesses $1.7 billion. How will this be accomplished?

5. It will also bring $800 million in federal funds into the state. We assume this will be through increased fed reimbursements, but how can we be sure this will happen?  What are the built-in guarantees?

6. Connecticut residents will save an average of $875 per person on health care premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.  Those of us who are poor or struggling have never saved before; why should we believe now?

7. SustiNet is budget neutral during the first two years of its implementation. In this economy, how do we achieve budget neutrality for two years when the cost of everything is going up everyday?

8. Beginning in 2012, it will require an investment by the state. The costs will be primarily in two areas: the phase-in of an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates that will more fairly compensate hospitals, health centers and health care providers to care for people enrolled in those programs; and, support for individuals buying into SustiNet who earn too much to qualify for public health care programs but too little to pay full premiums. While this makes sense, it leaves many unanswered questions.

9. SustiNet will be paid for by a combination of affordable individual premiums, modest (really?) contributions from businesses with an annual payroll greater than $318,000 that do not offer health insurance to their employees, and other revenue sources to be determined by the legislature. Sounds feasible; how will it be implemented?

10. SustiNet transforms Connecticut’s health care system. It saves money, brings in more federal
revenue, pays fair provider reimbursements, offers quality, affordable health care for every
Connecticut resident, and delivers peace of mind.

Where are the public information sessions to provide the public with details and answer specific questions so that we can have peace of mind?  We NEED public sessions.

posted by: JAHQ on May 10, 2009  1:18am

There may be a legitimate concern when “government” begins to encroach upon the personal and private issues of its people.  Healthcare is not an exception.  However, owing to the fact that healthcare costs and affordability has become a mojor issue in every household, it has become very necessary to explore various ways of engaging government in a healthy and sustainable healthcare reform.  The objectives of SustiNet as stated above offer great hope and future to the healthcare industry in CT.  Considering factors such as its portability, the introduction of digitized medical records to reduce costs, periodic quality reviews, and the creation of medical homes to increase accessibility are great tools which should cause everyone to jump onto the SustiNet wagon.  If some are still skeptical about how the program would be administered to their advantage, I would suggest a thorough delivery of information to the public regarding the pros and cons of the program.  This would promote other options which may not have been considered at the grassroot level as well as overcome the challenge of inertia which seem to delay any meaningful program involving state legislature and its citizens.

posted by: SAL on May 11, 2009  10:25pm

It is good to see that SustiNet is moving forward.  We hope that the legislators and Universal Health Foundation will come back to Citizens TV and conduct a more thorough forum and give the community more details about the fine points of this program before it goes before the State Senate.  It is important that more of us understand exactly what this is about and not just a selected few. Those who will be affected need to understand exactly what they will be getting with the SustiNet statewide plan.

A few years ago when the feds were implementing the new Medicare Drug Plan this same program 21st Century Conversations was the one that held good forums where we learned a lot of details.  The forums were held at CTV and at Gateway Community College. It was where seniors in the NH community got the best information. I hope that with SustiNet this will happen again.  It is beneficial to have people who know what they are doing provide the information. This is an important task; I hope that the legislators will take it seriously.  We need to have someone who is not running for political office, and who is not beholding to others asking the questions.

posted by: CT on May 13, 2009  2:11am

This health care issue is really important. The Republicans are hard at work trying to discredit and destroy what the president is trying to do on the national level. We in CT have a great opportunity to set a GOOD example and show the Republicans that this is the will of the people.

The Medicare program has been working well, and I think if employers pull together and do not allow themselves to be intimidated by the powerful drug and health industry lobbyists, this program can be a good thing for CT.  We must ask ourselves, what are the Republicans and lobbyists afraid of?  The answer is they are greedy and want to control all of the health resource dollars. The Republicans only care about the wealthy people.

We who have families are asking the CT Legislature to please stay on top of this.  Legislators should hold information meetings in their districts and give us more detailed information about how this plan will work.  We cannot continue as we are going right now.  People should not have to chose between paying their mortgage and paying for health care; that is barbaric.  This is the United States of America; please help to ensure that we all have health care coverage.  Senator Looney, Sen. Williams and Se. Toni Harp, please lead the way for us. We NEED health care in CT. Please be out in the community talking about this; do not wait until the CT Business & Industry Assn and the other powerful lobbying groups kill SustiNet before you start fighting; please, do it NOW. Thanks

posted by: on May 14, 2009  11:02pm

We are pleased to hear that SustiNet Day at the State Capitol on Wednesday, May 13, went well. We hope that Council 4, Universal Health Foundation, the churches and others will continue to engage the broader community.  OneWorld has received several calls from people asking how they can get more information; we have been referring those callers to the web site. We have also encourage people to call their state reps and the State Capitol. Following through—when it takes an added effort—does not always happen.

We think it might be very beneficial to have certain churches and community organizations designated as resource centers where local people (who might not be affiliated with Council 4) can turn to get information.  Not everyone has access to the Internet, a computer, or even a newspaper. An easily accessible location with written handouts and someone who can answer basic questions might be very helpful in promoting greater participation.

We are grateful to all those who posted comments about the TV program we did, and we hope to have another opportunity to conduct a discussion forum where many more people will participate.  However, we think it is best that many of the churches in greater New Haven conduct information forums.  This is a critical issue and solid information and participation are essential.  This is not only for those who do not have health coverage; we happen to think it is essential that everyone be fully informed about what SustiNet is and what it will mean for all CT residents.  This is NOT a liberal plan to rip off the rich and pay for the poor. If we understand this correctly, in the long term, SustiNet will be of benefit to all CT residents and businesses.

OneWorld is a 501(C)3 organization of committed people whose only interest is to SERVE the public good. We do so by providing reliable health literacy programs, promoting education on every level, and encouraging civic engagement. One of our main goals is to engage the community in ways that are productive and that will benefit the largest number of people possible.  We encourage community leaders to bring issues of general community concern to our attention and we will use whatever resources are available to us to inform and engage the community towards positive outcomes. 

We encourage everyone to find our informative TV program “21st Century Conversations” on their public access channel.  If you cannot find it, please ask your PEG station to request the program from OneWorld, Inc. There is no cost involved and we will provide DVD or VHS copies for airing on any PEG station in CT. 

We also encourage you to visit our web site at: to learn a great deal more. Peace

posted by: Charles on May 16, 2009  2:15am

It will be very interesting to see what happens with SustiNet at the Capitol in the fall.  All of the action about SustiNet is being carried out in Hartford.  While Hartford is the capital of the state, and that is where the legislators are based, one would expect more community action in areas where the largest group of people who need SustiNet are located.  But as usual, those who need the help the most are the ones who are the least involved.

On April 16, OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc. worked very hard to get people in NH to go to the CTV studio to participate in an education forum about SustiNet.  While there were some community leaders there asking questions, the people who need health care the most were not there.  Why is that?  Because as usual, these people want everyone else to do the work and they (who are the ones in need) get the benefit.  This is why so many people have given up on trying to help others.  It is too frustrating and very discouraging. We should only help people who try to help themselves; when things come too easy people have no appreciation for the efforts of others. The yellow shirts in Hartford this week were the working people who already have health care.

posted by: diane feinberg on May 17, 2009  11:27pm

I agree with Mike who posted earlier that there are alot of questions that need to be addressed.I also wonder how long it will take to have self employed persons insured under this plan. Sustinet is badly needed. It could not only help many people survive, but it could provide a vital stimulus to Connecticut’s economy.

posted by: Laura on May 18, 2009  11:28am

We commend OneWorld Progressive Institute for presenting this TV program about SustiNet; however, as others have said, we need a lot more public information sessions where people can come and ask questions and get clarification in a timely manner.  On the TV program Ms. Shani is only allowed one hour; this needs more time and it needs the people who have the detailed facts to be there to answer questions.  For example, all the Republicans on the Public Health Committee in the State House voted against SustiNet.  Why is that?  No Republican was available to answer that question. 

We the people need more information about SustiNet.  We need more than demonstrations in Hartford.  We need detailed information.  Open up the churches in the community; plan information sessions so that we know what to support or what to oppose.  We thank OneWorld for starting a community conversation.