SustiNet Name Lives On (Sans Public Option)

05.20.2011
Issues & Policies

Governor Malloy has reached an agreement with the Universal Healthcare Foundation of Connecticut that rules out what would have been a very expensive and expansive foray by state government into healthcare. At least for this year, the SustiNet healthcare legislation (HB 6305) will not include a public option.

The agreement with the foundation follows the recent announcement that the governor had reached a similar understanding with legislative leaders on SustiNet.

SustiNet was originally envisioned to be a state-run health insurance public option, utilizing the state’s self-insured government employee health plans as the basis for the program that eventually would have been open to every company and individual in Connecticut.

That kind of expansion would have been very risky for taxpayers, because the state itself (and not an outside insurance company) would have been responsible for paying the medical bills of participating patients. Without knowing the risk profiles of these individuals, accepting them into the plan would have opened the state to enormous financial risk.

However, things at the Capitol have apparently changed. The new agreement replaces the original SustiNet proposal with a scaled-back version of the perennial “pooling” bill. Under the new scenario, what will still be called SustiNet will open the state employee health plan only to municipalities and certain nonprofits.

Instead of plunging into a public health insurance option, lawmakers will create a Governor’s SustiNet Healthcare Cabinet that evaluates, among other things, the future viability of a public option.

While the business community is pleased with the new agreement, they point out that the new cabinet should include a wide range of stakeholders who give a candid evaluation of the risks and costs of a public option, not merely rubber-stamp the proposal. 

The SustiNet agreement also calls for the establishment of an Office of Health Reform and Innovation that would centralize Connecticut’s efforts to implement federal reform and create a federally required health insurance exchange.

The revised SustiNet proposal is a rational alternative to committing state taxpayers to a misguided and financially risky public option. Connecticut needs genuine healthcare reform that reduces costs, increases quality and expands access to healthcare.  

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