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June 29, 2009 9:23 AM

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Rell asked to sign 2 health bills
Rell asked to sign 2 health bills

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
By Mary E. O'Leary, Register Topics Editor

HARTFORD - Small-business owners begged Gov. M. Jodi Rell Tuesday to sign two health care bills they say will extend coverage and cut costs, while several hundred advocates rallied outside the Capitol against cuts in Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled.

The Democratic majority is expected to vote on its $37.9 billion two-year budget proposal Thursday or Friday as the fiscal year draws to a close, but it is widely believed that Rell will veto it.

Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, legislative leaders and advocates delivered the health care reform bills Tuesday to Rell's offices. The governor has until July 8 to veto them, sign them or let them go into effect without her signature, but her spokesman, Rich Harris, said she continues to have concerns about both.

The health care partnership bill would open up the state employees' health insurance pool to small businesses, nonprofits and municipal employees, while switching the state health plans to a self-insurance model.

The SustiNet plan, which looks to a competitive public health plan down the road, proposes a series of task forces to deal with health information technology, medical homes, clinical care and preventive care, as well as obesity and health care workforce shortages.

It sets a January 2011 deadline for legislation to implement SustiNet, whose goal is universal health care coverage. Advocates feel it puts the state in a good position to take advantage of federal health care reform being discussed in Washington.

Kevin Galvin, who said his health care reform movement represents 20,000 small businesses in the state, urged Rell not to block the health bills.

"Connecticut's broken health care system is killing job growth and killing our livelihoods," Galvin said. "Small businesses can't wait any longer."

Linda St. Peter, president of the Connecticut Realtor Association, said "health care is a constant challenge" for the 18,000 independent contractors she represents, particularly those, who like herself, are stigmatized because of pre-existing medical conditions.

She warned that many people in the state "are one paycheck away from joining the uninsured."

On the south lawn of the state Capitol, Karen Mayo of North Branford spoke on behalf of her wheelchair-bound daughter, Lindsay, 12, who is nonverbal and suffers from severe mental retardation, blindness, a seizure disorder and other maladies due to a birth defect.

She said she has been able to keep her child at home because of the assistance she gets from state Medicaid programs.

Mayo feared a change in Medicaid legislation that would allow the state to substitute cheaper "similarly effective" medication and equipment, would compromise her daughter's health and force her to institutionalize Lindsay. "Please do not use the most vulnerable individuals in Connecticut in this way," Mayo said.

Bernard Fulcher, 51, of New Haven, said he has been able to take advantage of Medicaid-supported dental services at the Hill Community Health Care Center, which he needed after radiation treatments for several bouts with Hodgkin's lymphoma took their toll. Rell's proposed budget would limit dental benefits for adults to emergencies.

Fulcher said ignoring dental health leaves people with far more serious issues, such as heart disease. A lifelong Democrat, he said he voted for Rell, "but in this particular case, she is dead wrong," Fulcher said of the Medicaid cuts.

After the rally, House Speaker Christopher Dovovan, D-Meriden, told reporters the Democrats' budget plan should be able to restore the Medicaid the cuts, given other savings they have identified.

The governor has chided the Democrats to pass a budget that is "both responsible and affordable" and that takes into account the state's declining revenues and its $8 billion deficit.

She is expected to veto any budget that depends heavily on tax increases, which the Democrats have yet to detail. "New taxes are not going to bring in significant new revenues if there is no economic activity to support them, let alone encourage job growth," Rell said Tuesday,

Mary E. O'Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or


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