Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut
Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut is an independent, nonprofit organization with offices in Meriden, Connecticut. The foundation supports the mission of its parent organization, CHART (Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust). The foundation has assets of approximately $30 million.
The foundation has several ideas for universal health care that it believes can be enacted and be affordable for government, consumers and businesses. The organization insists on certain benchmarks: universality, affordability for families and individuals, high quality care, and the ability to continue health care coverage through changing circumstances. The foundation says it believes health care is a fundamental right.
In 1997, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Comptroller Nancy Wyman and a coalition of advocacy and labor organizations sued the for-profit Anthem Insurance Co. over its merger with the non-profit Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut. The aim was to recover tax benefits and other concessions that the former Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut had received over several decades. The lawsuit was dropped after Anthem Insurance agreed to a settlement in 1999. As a result, the state established the Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust. Anthem Foundation of Connecticut was incorporated as a supporting organization to CHART.
It is one of about 165 foundations nationwide to be created by conversions of nonprofit health corporations to for-profit entities. As a condition of these conversions, the law requires that the assets of the nonprofit be retained for some public purpose.
At the time, Attorney General Blumenthal called the agreement "a historic victory". The foundation received $41 million to carry out the conditions of the settlement. It was charged with working toward system-wide health care reform. The agreement established Anthem Foundation's legal obligation to help improve health care for those who need it most. The foundation was incorporated in 2000. It opened its first offices in New Haven, Connecticut. In January 2003, Juan Figueroa, a former community organizer, former Connecticut legislator, former assistant attorney general of Connecticut and former president and general counsel of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York, became foundation president. In 2004, the foundation changed its name to reflect a final separation from the Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Connecticut. At the time, Figueroa stated that no relationship with Anthem existed and that the foundation's main focus was passage of universal health care.
Since 2004, the foundation has awarded over $7 million in grants to organizations to advance that goal.
In 2007, the Hartford Business Journal chose Juan Figueroa as a 2007 "Health Care Hero".
Since 2005, the foundation has developed relationships with several key groups that would be instrumental in creating broad change in the health system, including medical societies, hospitals, businesses, labor and clergy.
In January 2009 the foundation unveiled SustiNet, a proposal for a statewide health care plan for Connecticut that would provide residents with their choice of health coverage and care regardless of their employment status, age, or pre-existing conditions. An estimated 1,000 people attended a rally at Union Station (Hartford) for the release of the plan.
SustiNet would emphasize preventive care and the management of chronic illnesses. It would create a large health insurance pool by combining state employees, retirees, and people covered by state assistance programs. The pool would also be open to members of the public without insurance, those with inadequate insurance, and employers, starting with small businesses, nonprofits and municipalities. Eventually, Sustinet would be open to larger employers wishing to insure their employees through the plan.
According to analysis by the nation's leading health economists, SustiNet would reduce the proportion of state residents without health coverage from 12 percent to 2 percent by 2014. In addition, SustiNet would bring about savings in the private sector which would far exceed additional state government expenditures.
In February, the 18,500-member Connecticut Association of Realtors announced its support for the SustiNet health care plan, explaining that as self-employed individuals, realtors bear the total cost of their insurance premiums, and consequently many are priced out of the market. In addition, the independent statewide organization Small Businesses for Health Care Reform endorsed the proposal and encouraged other business owners to review and support it.
In March, the foundation's plan was formally endorsed by the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care, a group devoted to health reform, and by dozens of other religious leaders representing a wide range of faiths in Connecticut. Fellowship members include Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, a co-chairman of the Interfaith Fellowship, and Bilal Ansari, a Muslim chaplain at Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center in Hartford, where much of his counseling involves helping families cope with not just the stress of a relative's illness, but the worries about how they will pay for it.
SustiNet passed its first hurdle in the General Assembly's joint committees on Thursday, March 26, receiving a favorable report from the Public Health Committee, which voted 22-8 to move the bill forward. Successively, others did likewise: the Human Services Committee, 13-6 on April 22, Labor and Public Employees Committee, 8-3 on the 29th, and Insurance and Real Estate, 13-4 on May 7.
On July 20 the governor's vetoes were overridden by the Connecticut House of Representatives with a vote of 102 to 40 and then by the Connecticut Senate with a vote of 24-12.
The SustiNet law establishes a nine-member board to recommend to the legislature, by January 1, 2011, the details of and implementation process for a self-insured health care plan called SustiNet. The recommendations must address (1) the phased-in offering of the plan to state employees and retirees, HUSKY A and B beneficiaries, people without employer-sponsored insurance or with unaffordable, small and large employers, and others; (2) establishing an entity that can contract with insurers and health care providers, set reimbursement rates, develop medical homes for patients, and encourage the use of health information technology; (3) a model benefits package; and (4) public outreach and ways to identify uninsured citizens.
The board must establish committees to make recommendations to it about health information technology, medical homes, clinical care and safety guidelines, and preventive care and improved health outcomes. The act also establishes an independent information clearinghouse to inform employers, consumers, and the public about SustiNet and private health care plans and creates task forces to address obesity, tobacco usage, and health care workforce issues. The effective date of the SustiNet law was July 1, 2009 for most provisions.
The work of the nine member SustiNet board began in July 2009 and in September two more position were added to the board. The now 11 member board will guide four committees and three task forces, which will report to the General Assembly in July 2010. Enrollment in the program will begin in July 2012.
- Waterbury Republican American, "Black business group receives $40,000 grant", May 10, 2005
- The American Prospect, "Why Not Connecticut", April 21, 2008
- Meriden-Record Journal, "Universal Health Care Ideas Still In Formative Stages", Dec.14, 2006
- New London Day, "Chamber to Use Grant to Conduct Health-Care Survey", November 1, 2006
- "Wyman, Blumenthal Announce $41 Million Settlement of Lawsuits Against Anthem Insurance Co. Inc." Press Release, Attorney General’s Office, July 27, 1999
- New York Times, "Public Lives; Memories of Paradise (Plus a Few Bombs)", May 9, 2000
- New Haven Register, "New Haven, Conn.-based foundation splits from Anthem with Name Change", July 28, 2004
- Hartford Business Journal, "Health Care Heroes 2007" December 10, 2007
- Hartford Courant, "Connecticut Clergy Pressuring State To Approve Health Insurance Plan", March 5, 2009
- The New York Times, "Hartford Hears Health Care Proposal", January 16, 2009
- County Business Journal, "Health care options proliferate", January 9, 2009
- Press release entitled "Connecticut Association of Realtors® Inc. Endorses SustiNet Health Care Proposal", reprinted at "Small Businesses For Health Care Reform"
- Record-Journal Publishing Company|[Meriden]Record Journal, "Universal Health Care Plan Gains Steam", February 17, 2009
- Hartford Courant, "Foundation Presents Plan To Provide Universal Health Coverage", January 14, 2009
- Hartford Courant, "Health Plan Advances", March 28, 2009
- Human Services Committee Vote Tally Sheet, Bill No.: HB 6600, "An Act Concerning the Establishment of the SustiNet Plan", April 22, 2009
- Labor and Public Employees Committee Tally Sheet, Bill No.: HB-6600, "An Act Concerning the Establishment of the SustiNet Plan", April 29, 2009
- Insurance and Real Estate Committee Tally Sheet, Bill No.: HB-6600, "An Act Concerning the Establishment of the SustiNet Plan", May 7, 2009
- Hartford Courant, "Connecticut House Backs Universal Health Care Coverage", May 21, 2009
- Hartford Courant, "Senate Approves Two Controversial Healthcare Bills Saturday", May 30, 2009
- http://blogs.courant>.com/capitol_watch/2009/07/rell-vetoes-controversial-pool.html "Rell Vetoes Controversial Pooling and SustiNet Bills"], Hartford Courant, July 8, 2009
- http://blogs.courant.com/capitol_watch/2009/07/house-debates-override-on-sust.html "House and Senate Both Override Rell on Universal Health Bill" Hartford Courant, July 20, 2009
- Connecticut General Assembly, Office of Legislative Research, "Acts Affecting Insurance," July 21, 2009