As expected, a set of recommendations that will put Connecticut on the road to much more government control of healthcare in the state been approved by the SustiNet board of directors.

By a 7-1 vote, the SustiNet directors laid the groundwork for the creation of a expansive and costly plan to cover state employees and retirees, Medicaid recipients and eventually municipalities, nonprofits, businesses and individuals.

While the ultimate, true cost of SustiNet health plan actually is still unknown—along with what is now going to happen to federal healthcare reform—the plan will now go to the legislature for approval.

Despite not knowing the cost of state-run healthcare and how much of it Connecticut can really afford, a consultant working with the board said that the board focused not so much on what is feasible, or affordable, to do, just what it wished to do and when to do it.

Success of SustiNet and achieving its proposed cost savings depend heavily on federal healthcare reform and federal subsidies. However, the new Congress is about to take up attempts to roll back, or at least cut back, the funding of the federal reform. Popular opinion in the nation is lining up to support rollback.

And Lt. Governor-Elect Nancy Wyman, who served as a SustiNet co-chair, earlier acknowledged that in light of the state’s poor fiscal condition, “We might have to do SustiNet a little slower than we’d hoped.”

Several members of the board want SustiNet ultimately to act as a state-run health insurance public option, which would be the most expensive and expansive route.
Given the state’s poor track record of paying for its current healthcare obligations, that prospect is troublesome. If SustiNet were to become a state-run healthcare system, the current cost-shifting from underfunded public insurance plans to already overburdened private plans would get worse.

In addition, SustiNet ultimately would compete with Connecticut’s private-sector insurance industry, which could put even more jobs in jeopardy and increase already high health care costs.

Connecticut businesses would prefer to see SustiNet roll out elements of health care reform that would actually improve the healthcare system rather than simply increase costs and threaten Connecticut jobs.