Connecticut Business Reps, Advocates, Lawmakers Discuss Universal Health Care, Other Proposals; State Adopts EHRs For Medicaid Beneficiaries

Connecticut lawmakers, business representatives and universal health care advocates on Monday at a General Assembly Public Health Committee hearing agreed that changes are needed to reduce the number of uninsured state residents but disagreed on how to achieve such a goal, the New Haven Register reports. Stanley Dorn, a researcher at the Urban Institute who works with the Universal Health Care Foundation in Connecticut, said the low-cost, quality health care system of the Veterans Affairs Department could serve as a model for the state. A recent study conducted for the foundation found that a single-payer health system in Connecticut could reduce employer costs by $590 million and generate $1 billion in income for purposes other than health care. A separate plan that would create a state pool with competing insurance coverage could save up to $640 million in new income, the study found. Meanwhile, the Connecticut Health Insurance Policy Council, a consortium of businesses, recommended the state allocate an additional $177 million to increase Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals and physicians and enroll more low-income individuals in public health programs. Mickey Herbert, co-chair of the council, and John Rathgeber of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said increased competition could lead to lower health care costs. Robert Patricelli, co-chair of the council, said legislators should avoid a single payer system (O’Leary, New Haven Register, 1/30).

The Universal Health Care Foundation in Connecticut study is available online. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study. Electronic Health Records
In other news, Connecticut will use a $5 million federal grant to develop and implement an electronic health records system for 35,000 Medicaid beneficiaries, the New Haven Register reports. The grant is one of several awarded through the federal Medicaid Transformation Act, which provides $150 million to help states improve efficiency in Medicaid. In Connecticut, the not-for-profit group eHealth — a coalition of hospital administrators, providers, insurers, pharmacists and business people — will develop interoperability standards and select a service provider to operate the EHR system. The group also will address any legal or ethical issues, such as privacy concerns. Physicians will maintain the EHRs, which will be accessible to authorized providers. Michael Starkowski, acting commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, said patients will be able to limit which providers can access the system. Although beneficiaries will be able to view the records, they will not be permitted to modify the information, the Register reports. Eventually, the program will be expanded to include all Connecticut residents (Katz, New Haven Register, 1/29).

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