Malloy joins rally for universal health care on eve of SustiNet vote

Governor-elect Dan Malloy joined dozens of clergy and hundreds of people rallying for universal health care Tuesday evening, the night before a key vote on plans for the SustiNet health partnership.

The rally at Emanuel Lutheran Church in Hartford was held by the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care, a group of clergy that has been advocating for SustiNet, a health insurance plan that could be open to anyone. The SustiNet board is expected to vote Wednesday morning on its recommendations to the legislature, which, along with Malloy, will ultimately determine its fate.

Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, one of the interfaith group’s leaders, noted the contrast between Malloy and Gov. M. Jodi Rell, whose staff rebuffed the religious leaders’ requests to meet with her. Rell vetoed the bill creating SustiNet last year, but legislators overrode the veto.

Malloy universal health care

Malloy did not discuss SustiNet specifically, or offer a timeline for expanding health care coverage. But he spoke of the need to create a more comprehensive public health system and to go after as much federal funding to build it as possible.

“Our political leadership is desirous of bringing about this change, both on the state level and the federal level,” Malloy said, flanked by close to 40 clergy. “With any luck, with the federal dollars and a turnaround in our economic situation, hopefully not in the too-distant future, we’ll be able to move this ball forward substantially greater than we might otherwise believe we can.”

“We’re going to get this job done,” he added. “We’re going to make sure that our fellow citizens have a system that is better than simply falling into a state of health that requires being seen at the emergency room. We’re going to be involved in making sure that people have immunizations and have the access to health care and have the access to those things necessary to keep them healthy.”

Malloy also spoke of devoting more resources to fighting tobacco, hiring people interested in building a health system, and integrating hospitals and community health centers.

Before Malloy left, the Rev. Joshua Pawelek, who emceed the rally, announced that religious leaders would be giving Malloy and Lieutenant Gov.-elect Nancy Wyman gifts.

“Of nominal value,” Malloy added.

“Does ultimate value fall under nominal value?” asked Pawelek, of the Unitarian Universalist Society: East in Manchester.

“Nominal as measured monetarily,” Malloy said.

Among the gifts: A chalice, a Quran, The Book of Common Prayer, a Bible in English and Spanish, and a Jewish and Islamic amulet known as a hamsa.