SustiNet cabinet starts work Monday

The SustiNet Health Care Cabinet, an advisory board created as part of a compromise on the proposed SustiNet state-run health plan, will hold its first meeting Monday.

The cabinet will be led by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and includes 16 members appointed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, legislative leaders and the board that developed the SustiNet proposal. Eleven members of Malloy’s administration are on the cabinet as ex-officio members.

SustiNet was originally proposed as a state-run health plan that would include state employees and Medicaid recipients and would be available to small businesses, nonprofits, municipalities and, eventually, anyone in the state. That plan did not pass, but a compromise that became law this year created the cabinet to make health care policy recommendations, including developing a business plan for alternatives to private insurance.

The compromise also allows municipalities and some nonprofits to buy health insurance through the state, and established an Office of Health Reform and Innovation to coordinate state and federal reform efforts.

The cabinet is charged with examining several health policy issues, including ways to ensure an adequate health care workforce, identifying gaps and other issues created by federal health reform, the possibility of offering state coverage to people who might otherwise get federal subsidies to buy insurance, and advising the governor on health policy matters.

Malloy appointed family physician Dr. Tory Westbrook, Connecticut Health Foundation President and CEO Patricia Baker, Charter Oak Health Center CEO Alfreda Turner, health insurance broker Phil Boyle and Jeffrey Lucht.

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, picked Margaret Smith, a dentist. Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, selected Robert Tessier, the executive director of the Connecticut Coalition of Taft-Hartley Health Funds, which represents health plans for unionized workers.

House Speaker Christopher G. Donovan, D-Meriden, picked Frances Padilla, vice president for program, policy and administration at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, which proposed SustiNet. House Majority Leader J. Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, appointed Dr. William Handelman, a Torrington physician and a former president of the Connecticut State Medical Society.

The two Republicans charged with making appointments, Senate Minority Leader John McKinney of Fairfield and House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr. of Norwalk, both plan to make appointments but have not done so yet. Cafero was charged by the statute with appointing a representative of the health information technology industry, while McKinney was assigned to appoint an advanced practice registered nurse in active practice.

The board of the SustiNet Health Partnership, which developed the SustiNet plan, appointed Ellen Andrews, executive director of the Connecticut Health Policy Project; the Rev. Bonita Grubbs, who served on the SustiNet board; Dr. Steven D. Hanks, executive vice president and chief medical officer of The Hospital of Central Connecticut; Linda St. Peter, a realtor who was active in promoting SustiNet; and Joanne Walsh, president and CEO of Constellation Health Services.

Ex-officio voting members are State Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri; Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen; Comptroller Kevin Lembo; Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby; Benjamin Barnes, Malloy’s budget director; and Jeannette DeJesús, special advisor to the governor for health care reform and head of the Office of Health Reform and Innovation.

Ex-officio members who will not vote are Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Commissioner Patricia Rehmer; Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz; Department of Developmental Services Commissioner Terrence Macy; Insurance Commissioner Thomas B. Leonardi; and Deborah Heinrich, the liaison to the governor for nonprofits.