Families Can't Afford to Wait for Health Care

speakout

By Rep. Steve Fontana (D-North Haven) Co-Chairman of the Insurance & Real Estate Committee

Fontana Steve Every month, hardworking people all over Connecticut lose their health insurance coverage when they lose their jobs, when their employers stop offering it, or when they can no longer afford to pay for it. Deciding whether and how to reform our healthcare system isn’t an academic debate for them, but a potential life or death situation.

The experience of a constituent of mine, Lisa, illustrates the healthcare problems that too many of us face. She suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, which, as pre-existing conditions, well might make her uninsurable if she weren’t already covered by her husband’s plan. Her brother recently lost his health insurance, along with his job, because he couldn’t afford his COBRA coverage. Several of Lisa’s relatives have never had any healthcare coverage, because they work for small businesses that do not provide insurance to their employees. Lisa is now concerned that something may happen to her husband or his job that may jeopardize their health insurance.

Lisa, her family, and hundreds of thousands of others cannot afford to wait any longer for healthcare reform. They deserve a quality, affordable healthcare plan.

Thankfully, we’ve found a way to provide Connecticut residents with a quality, affordable health insurance choice that begins to control costs. Every year the state uses the bargaining power of our large, stable employee group to negotiate favorable healthcare rates. We propose leveraging this pool to create a Healthcare Partnership. The Partnership is a voluntary health plan option that allows the employees of towns, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses to join the state employee plan.

This Partnership is a “win-win-win” that benefits state taxpayers, our towns, and small businesses.

By self-insuring our state plan as we did before 1997, we will yield a one-time savings of $70 million, and ongoing savings of $10 million to $20 million per year for the state.

Providing towns with a competitive choice for employee health insurance will reduce budget costs for most Connecticut towns. Many states already allow municipal employees to join their state plans, and, according to the Connecticut Education Association, 85% of Connecticut towns could reduce health insurance costs for their teachers by joining the state plan.

Small businesses and non-profit organizations will save money that they can use to invest in their businesses and attract good employees by providing them with competitive healthcare choices.

Allowing towns, nonprofits, and small businesses to buy their healthcare through a public health plan option enjoys widespread support. David Osborne, a nationally-recognized expert on improving government performance whom Governor Rell brought to Connecticut this past winter, favors approaches like the Partnership because states can use their administrative flexibility and bargaining power to negotiate better prices. Connecticut groups representing realtors, doctors, educators, small businesses, and senior citizens all endorse it. Recent polls conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times demonstrate that the public broadly supports a voluntary public option like the Partnership.

In addition, we can compound the prospective success of the Partnership by enacting an other initiative to lay the foundation for further healthcare system improvements. The SustiNet plan, developed to integrate our state efforts with reforms being discussed in Congress, will assure that we continue to lead the nation by extending quality health coverage to more residents, containing costs, and promoting preventive care.

The people of Connecticut want access to a public option that provides quality, affordable healthcare – the same great health plan available to more than 200,000 state employees, dependents, retirees, legislators like me, and even Governor Rell.

The General Assembly passed these two initiatives by wide margins. All we need is Governor Rell’s signature to make them state law.

While Governor Rell may be hearing the self-serving objections of naysayers and special interests, I hope she is also hearing from the tens of thousands of ordinary Connecticut citizens who desperately want and need her to support these solutions.

In the past, the Governor has risen to the occasion when circumstances demand it. I urge her to take up the mantle of leadership on healthcare reform at this critical juncture by signing both bills into law.

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22 responses to “Families Can't Afford to Wait for Health Care

  1. Mr. Fontana, didn’t CT’s insurance carriers say they would raise their premiums and renegotiate their rates if they were forced to take new people that they may not want into their pool? The carriers do have contracts in place, do they not? How much would it cost us if we had to renegotiate with the carriers and we required them to accept some potentially high risk people?

    All sounds good, but……

  2. Bad idea Steve. This is a national level issue that your liberal friends tried in 1993 & 1994 and it failed miserably, so much so that it cost your party control of Congress for 12 years.

    As pufnstuf pointed out, if we FORCE the insurance company to cover people the cost will increase dramatically. This is just another liberal tax and spend idea that we simply cannot afford.

  3. Steve, I see you’re good at answering questions:

  4. This says it all…nice one Brenda!

  5. I obviously want everyone to have access to good healthcare. But at the same time, I’m skeptical when someone asserts “John Q Public” can’t afford something.

    From my perspective, to make that assertion one would need to provide the details of all income (i.e. unemployment bene’s) and all expenses.

    The expense part is the difficult one to address.

    Does someone have cable TV? How about a cell phone? Does one need such things? Perhaps a cell phone is relatively necessary (barring the possession of a landline), but what plan is used? Does one make payments on a car? How about on a house? Is your car or house more expensive than society would collectively believe necessary?

    To be blunt, I don’t want to pay taxes for people who are IMO living beyond their means. Though I’m ok paying taxes that go to helping those who are IMO truly in need.

    A big problem with legislation is figuring out how to define that. But I know that when the assertion

    because he couldn’t afford his COBRA coverage.

    is made, numerous questions should be addressed.

  6. johningreenwich

    One point of this plan was that the State, as a self-insurer, doesn’t plan to build a reserve. So what happens when, like this year, there’s no budget?

    And before you answer, consider the ConnPACE example. The State talked very-low-income seniors into taking very-cheap Medicare Part D drug plans because, if their drug wasn’t covered by that plan ConnPACE would cover it (they did this because ConnPACE pays the premium – a federal mandate for participating state plans). This was last November. Fast forward to May 26 and seniors get a letter that ConnPace will no longer cover drugs not covered by participants’ Part D plan – effective June 1. The Communication Director for Dept. of Social Services responds: we didn’t know we were going to have this budget problem back in November. If an insurer pulled this Blumenthal would have them drawn and quartered on TV. What happens when Connecticut does it?

    I think I made my point – the state can’t even run its drug plan fairly. To give them a full-blown insurance company to run is insanity.

    So one more question for Rep. Fontana, and I hope you know the answer: what happens when the state doesn’t pass a budget on time? Will the doctors continue to get paid? Since there’s no reserve, it seems that this plan would be vunerable. Could you research the language and State Constitution to tell me how THIS would be guaranteed in a late budget scenario?

    God save us from Connecticut Democrats.

  7. So one more question for Rep. Fontana, and I hope you know the answer: what happens when the state doesn’t pass a budget on time? Will the doctors continue to get paid? Since there’s no reserve, it seems that this plan would be vunerable. Could you research the language and State Constitution to tell me how THIS would be guaranteed in a late budget scenario?

    John, if you watch the video I gave a link to a few posts back, Steve will give you a response. He’s long on responses but extremely short on answers.

  8. Every month, hardworking people all over Connecticut lose their health insurance coverage when they lose their jobs, when their employers stop offering it, or when they can no longer afford to pay for it. Deciding whether and how to reform our healthcare system isn’t an academic debate for them, but a potential life or death situation.

    Rep. Fontana:

    What’s the logic behind tying someone’s health insurance to his or her employment status, anyway? We don’t do that for auto insurance, property insurance, death & disability, etc. Just a thought — maybe we should consider breaking this senseless mold and allowing Connecticut taxpayers to make their own personal, respective decisions with regard to health insurance for themselves and their families.

  9. The entire plan is fantasy. You can check with any actuary and he or she will tell you that just because you add people to a health plan, it doesn’t necessarily translate to lower health care costs.
    Larger municipalities are self insured so it would actually cost them more to join the state plan.
    One other thing Rep. Fontana fails to mention is that our state plan is the Cadillac of all health plans. So any municipality, small business or non-profit with healthy employees would end of paying more as well.
    The only groups you will want to join this plan are small businesses or non-profits with unhealthy employees – thus costing the state more then they are anticipating.
    The simple logic given by the Rep and the Speaker that by increasing the size of the pool would lead to lower costs is absolute nonsense and they are misleading the people of this state.
    All you had to do is watch the debate when this bill passed and Rep. Fontana couldn’t even answer the most basic questions regarding this plan.
    BTW Rep. Fontana – were do you come up with the notion that people of this state want access to a public option?

  10. That such a propaganda piece by such a know-nothing be published on this site is a bit of a shame. The posted video clip speaks for itself, and is much more representative of Rep. Fontana’s grasp of this issue.

    Public health care, functionally, is a much worse option than the already bad employer-based option we currently have, when it comes to meeting our health needs. A government incapable of performing their most basic duty, that of passing a budget, is unworthy of such a responsibility.

    Politically, public health care is just another attempt by lawmakers to make more folks beholden to their government, weaken local politics – in favor of much broader state control, and exert greater control over the prosperous. It will also provide another source of finances which government officials can skim off of, and a reason to create a broad bureaucracy into which politicians can hire their hack friends, and broaden the roles of one of their most loyal constituencies, the public unions.

    Don’t be fooled by the pie-in-the-sky promises and deceptive rhetoric.

  11. What’s the logic behind tying someone’s health insurance to his or her employment status, anyway? We don’t do that for auto insurance, property insurance, death & disability, etc. Just a thought — maybe we should consider breaking this senseless mold and allowing Connecticut taxpayers to make their own personal, respective decisions with regard to health insurance for themselves and their families.

    There’s two reasons.

    1) Pre-tax dollars. If your employee pays $10,000 per year for your health insurance, that’s better than getting $10,000 in additional salary and using that money to buy a $10,000 health plan. Because when your employer pays you $10,000, only between $6500 and $9000, depending on your income tax rate, is going to hit your paycheck.

    2) Large groups. If each person could buy health insurance tax free (negating point #1), it’s still better for insurance to be bought by large groups. When you have a 500 person company buy insurance for everyone, the insurance company knows how to assess that risk. But if individuals could buy insurance, but weren’t forced to, then many healthy people wouldn’t, but every person with some disease or family history of disease would. So you’d have a situation where only sick people bought insurance. This would push rates up, because now insurance companies would be paying more in claims, and onwards and upwards it would go. With that assymetrical information, risk assessment becomes difficult.

  12. There’s two reasons.

    That’s fine, but your reason no. 1 doesn’t require an employer. If contributions to a health insurance plan are tax-deductible, it doesn’t matter if the employer pays or if you pay. If the employer pays $10,000 for a plan, that’s a business expense (taken off the top of his profits). If you pay it, and it’s deductible, then you get the deduction — not your employer.

    Reason no. 2 doesn’t matter, either. If Aetna offered a plan to the general public, independent of employment status, the free market would determine if they made money: Aetna would be required to provide top-notch service or it would lose customers. What’s wrong with that? Also, your hypothetical is wrong: even though my family and I are “healthy,” we would buy health insurance for the same reason that we buy property insurance when we’re not reckless people.

  13. johningreenwich

    John, if you watch the video I gave a link to a few posts back, Steve will give you a response. He’s long on responses but extremely short on answers.

    I saw the video, it was great. Even more scary, however, was when I watched the debate live on CT-N. They didn’t really need to dress-up the debate or add funny music, they could have just shown it as it happened, which was more of a horror film than a comedy.

  14. Reason no. 2 doesn’t matter, either. If Aetna offered a plan to the general public, independent of employment status, the free market would determine if they made money: Aetna would be required to provide top-notch service or it would lose customers. What’s wrong with that? Also, your hypothetical is wrong: even though my family and I are “healthy,” we would buy health insurance for the same reason that we buy property insurance when we’re not reckless people.

    Yeah, but not everyone is responsible. Also, the people who knew they were sick or had a family history, would buy way more insurance than average.

  15. Every month, hardworking people all over Connecticut lose their health insurance coverage when they….

    Let’s start with some honesty.

    While Representative Fontana’s post doesn’t mention it, we do keep hearing how there’s 45 million uninsured as so on.

    The real number is probably closer to 8 – 10 million.

    Wall Street Journal
    Some Estimates Put the Number at 45.7 Million People, but Faulty Assumptions Could Be Inflating the Projections

    Medical News
    Counting of uninsured Americans a difficult task

    Which of these tax and spend characters is going to be the first to suggest we should have “free” Orthodontia?
    I darn near bled to death paying for my kid’s braces.

    On second thought – maybe I shouldn’t be giving them any ideas.

  16. While Representative Fontana’s post doesn’t mention it, we do keep hearing how there’s 45 million uninsured as so on.

    The real number is probably closer to 8 – 10 million.

    From the WSJ article you cite:

    While Census tends to shoot too high, state surveys can undershoot. “In hindsight it’s clear that the higher number was closer to the right number,” says Dick Powers, spokesman for the state’s Connector Authority, which manages the new health-care choices. The greater-than-expected demand drove costs higher than projections this fiscal year and last.

    They squeezed some weasel words into the headline, and you took it as gospel. Pathetic.

  17. Yeah, but not everyone is responsible. Also, the people who knew they were sick or had a family history, would buy way more insurance than average.

    That’s not the government’s fault, it’s an irresponsible person’s fault, and we shouldn’t be forced to pick up the tab for someone’s irresponsibility.

  18. They squeezed some weasel words into the headline, and you took it as gospel. Pathetic.

    Here ya go – take a look for yourself!

    Google “truth regarding uninsured americans

  19. Google “truth regarding uninsured americans“

    OK, so…

    An Arizona orthopedic surgeon

    I wouldn’t let a statistician operate on me — and you’d be wise not to take your nationwide insurance statistics from an independent orthopedic surgeon.

    testified in Congress on Tuesday that President Obama’s claim that 46 million Americans don’t have health insurance is not accurate because it does not reflect exactly who those people are and why they are “uninsured.”

    Sure, 46 million people don’t have insurance, but come on, most of them don’t count because I don’t care about them.

    Another 15 million are what he called “chronically uninsured,” because of pre-existing health problems or other mitigating factors.

    We should ignore 15 million of those uninsured… because they’re sick already! Who cares if they can get care, they’re already broken.

    “We have young people between 18 and 30, probably about another 10 million or so, they’d rather buy applications for their iPhone than buy health insurance,” Novack said.

    Because of course, being young and without $10K to spend on health insurance also means you don’t count. “Why, she chooses to pay rent on an apartment instead of buy health insurance!”

    What a bunch of crap. Where did you even find this guy?

  20. I wouldn’t let a statistician operate on me — and you’d be wise not to take your nationwide insurance statistics from an independent orthopedic surgeon.

    But he’s not trying to operate on you. In fact, his skills are directly relevant to the question of just how many people lack insurance.

    Because of course, being young and without $10K to spend on health insurance also means you don’t count. “Why, she chooses to pay rent on an apartment instead of buy health insurance!”

    But that wasn’t his quote. He said, “they’d rather buy applications for their iPhone than buy health insurance.” His comment was as plain as day, and you actually block-quoted it. Why (and how) would you possibly change his quote from iPhone applications to rent?

  21. But he’s not trying to operate on you. In fact, his skills are directly relevant to the question of just how many people lack insurance.

    I misread your comment, and I apologize.

  22. What a bunch of crap. Where did you even find this guy?

    What “guy”? – there’s 100’s of hits.

    If I wanted to send you to a single site I’d have put up a link to it alone not to a slew of hits.

    Further – I know a fellow with a small moving a storage operation that gets called in by various authorities for evictions fairly regularly.

    He’s rarely evicted anyone who didn’t have a bigger TV than he does.

    It’s a matter of choices; I lived (illegally no-less) in my office after my divorce; managed to keep my cell phone on and made payment to my son’s orthodontist while I hoped I didn’t come down with anything as I sure wasn’t in any position to pay health insurance premiums and lost what I had through my wife’s job when the divorce went through.

    I made my own choice.

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