Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Rell's health care Band-Aid

Journal Inquirer
January 12, 2006

I am glad to see that Gov. M Jodi Rell has at last entered into the ongoing debate on health care. Given that legislative leadership and so many others have already made clear their intent to address the healthcare crisis, the governor's entry into this debate suggests that she at least recognizes the status quo is unacceptable.

That said, however, her proposed solution, the Charter Oak Health Plan, is simply another market-driven health-insurance product that shifts costs to consumers, decreases insurance company risk, and does little to decrease the number of uninsured — estimated by Kaiser Family Foundation and other national groups to be 11 percent and rising in Connecticut.

Rell's plan does nothing to help those who are already insured struggling under rising premium shares, deductibles, and co-pays, or employers that are increasingly challenged by ever-rising health-insurance costs.

Where others are recognizing that our system is fundamentally broken and in need of major systemic change, the governor is choosing to tinker around the edges, offering the same old types of cost shifting, market-driven solutions, and remarkably hoping for better results.

Real health-care reform should be guided by the principles of the nonpartisan Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. These principles state that health care should be universal, continuous across employment, accessible and affordable for everyone, sustainable for society, and health enhancing.

Rell does not think Connecticut needs universal health care and she doesn't favor a "big government program."

However, according to the Institute of Medicine , our state already invests between $652 million and $1.3 billion annually on the uninsured so, in effect, whether we like it or not, we already have an enormous government investment in this problem.

Health-care reform is not about increasing government involvement, but rather about making that involvement work — by reforming the system so it protects all of us.

According to the Universal Health Care Foundation, a universal program for all state residents would cover everyone, lower administrative costs, decrease employer health-care costs by as much as 11 percent, increase household income by $1.03 billion annually, and add 6,000 or more new jobs to the economy. That would be a long-term, sustainable solution to the crisis.

By contrast, the governor's Charter Oak Plan is like building a sandcastle to stop a tidal wave.

No matter how you slice it, Connecticut needs universal health care.

Beverley Brakeman
West Hartford

The writer is director for Citizens for Economic Opportunity in Farmington .