Connecticut Senate Passes Health Care Pooling, Universal Coverage Bills

Connecticut senators on Saturday passed two health care bills that would both allow municipalities and small businesses to join the state employee health care pool, The Hartford Courant reports.

Gov. M. Jodi Rell, R-Conn., vetoed a similar bill to allow the pooling last year, and Connecticut’s budget director has spoken out against it this year.

The Courant went on to say: "Immediately after the pooling bill passed, the Senate began debating the controversial SustiNet universal health care bill ... Sen. Jonathan Harris, a West Hartford Democrat who summarized the bill on the Senate floor, said the current healthcare system needs to be improved because it is highly expensive. Every year, the current public and private health care systems spend $22 billion to cover the healthcare in Connecticut. The SustiNet plan, he said, will save $1.8 billion." Harris added that the details on the plan will be decided by future General Assemblies. The bill creates task forces on tobacco, obesity and the workforce to make recommendations by 2011 on how health care in those areas should change to save costs.

"The bill calls for an expansion and improvement of electronic medical records 'so we bring that country doctor with the bag from the 19th century into the 20th century,' Harris said. 'SustiNet brings this to the table.'" Republicans say the SustiNet bill will in the end be too costly — up to $1 billion in 2012 alone — and is a step toward European-style social medicine. 

Sen. L. Scott Frantz, R-Conn., offered ideas on how to save money in health care without SustiNet: "If all tobacco use was eliminated, the system could save 40 percent to 60 percent of the entire healthcare bill," Frantz said. "If obesity was eliminated, the system would save another 15 percent to 25 percent" (Keating, 5/31).

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