Conn. governor rejects two health coverage expansions

Democrats will try to override the vetoes during a special session in late July.

By Doug Trapp — Posted July 21, 2009

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Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell on July 8 vetoed two bills that aimed to expand access to health care, primarily because Rell was concerned about their cost.

The first, known as Connecticut Healthcare Partnership, would have allowed employees of nonprofits, small businesses and local governments to enroll in the same health plan as state employees. It also would have required that the state workers' plan be converted to a self-insured plan. Four private health insurance companies offer coverage to state employees. Rell vetoed a similar bill in June 2008.

The second bill would have created a nine-member board to oversee the creation of SustiNet, a self-insured health plan for residents without access to employer-sponsored health insurance who don't qualify for public programs. "Basically, those people who fall through the gaps," said Audrey Honig Geragosian, spokeswoman for the Connecticut State Medical Society, which supported the measures. But the society was disappointed that the final SustiNet bill did not include liability protections for physicians who would participate in the plan, she said.

Rell said when announcing the vetoes that the bills are well-intentioned, but not well-crafted. "These bills also raise serious fiscal concerns that -- in a time of record budget deficits, record unemployment and record business closures -- simply cannot be ignored."

Rell said she is not opposed to converting state employees' coverage to a self-insured plan eventually, but doing so in fiscal 2010 could cost the state about $70 million by invalidating existing insurance premium caps in place through 2011. Rell rejected the SustiNet plan partly because a nonpartisan state office estimated that it could cost more than $1 billion to administer. The bill does not specify potential revenue sources.

Connecticut House Speaker Christopher Donovan said the measures were written to help Connecticut residents access more affordable health insurance. "These bills would bring comforting relief to those who are suffering from those high costs."

Joshua Nassi, Donovan's policy director, said the Democrats will try to override the Rell vetoes during a special session starting July 20. Democrats hold the required two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate, but Republicans will probably try to filibuster the votes, Nassi said.

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