Connecticut Governor Defends State Health Care Plan
Connecticut Gov. Jodi Rell (R) on Monday said that there is time to build up the provider network for the state's new Charter Oak Health Plan for the uninsured, the AP/Hartford Courant reports. Lawmakers have criticized the program for not having enough participating hospitals and physicians. Twenty-four residents were enrolled in the program as of Aug. 1. A spokesperson for the state Department of Social Services announced that a second hospital has agreed to be part of the network and that the three insurers offering the plan are in discussions with other hospitals and expect more to enroll soon. According to the AP/Courant, many providers and hospitals are hesitant to sign up for the plan because they consider their reimbursement rates too low.
Lawmakers also have expressed concern about DSS linking HUSKY, the state's version of SCHIP, to Charter Oak. State Sen. Jonathan Harris (D), co-chair of the Human Services Committee, said he is concerned that the 339,000 HUSKY beneficiaries could be adversely affected because of Charter Oak. He said, "Let's figure out a way to make Charter Oak work, but let's not make HUSKY kids hostage in the process," by suggesting that Charter Oak enrollment be put on hold while the provider network is improved (AP/Hartford Courant, 8/4).
Meanwhile, e-mails published on Sunday show that state social services department Commissioner Michael Starkowski warned Rell's chief of staff in early June about the risks associated with rushing the launch of the Charter Oak Health Plan before it was ready. Starkowski in a message sent on June 4 to chief of staff Lisa Moody wrote that he was "pushing as fast as I can on this but I am sure you agree that the last thing we want is for us to start the program and the managed care companies not have their network of providers signed up." He said, "I know we want to open as soon as possible ... but all the pieces have to be in place," adding, "I don't want to open a program that embarrasses the governor, doesn't meet her commitments, has fatal flaws at the start or gets shut down due to inadequacies."
DSS spokesperson David Dearborn said that the agency is concerned about the low number of providers who have signed up, but "we are also confident that the networks will be developed as the number of Charter Oak enrollees develops accordingly." The state expects 19,000 residents to enroll in the plan over time (AP/Hartford Courant, 8/3). On Monday, Rell characterized the e-mail exchange as two individuals discussing how best to meet a deadline set by the General Assembly. "When the law says it will begin on July 1, it begins on July 1," Rell said, adding that "24 people now have health insurance that didn't have health insurance before" (AP/Hartford Courant, 8/4).
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