The ink had barely dried on national health care reform in May 2010 when Connecticut lawmakers adopted a plan to expand coverage for the poor.
But while Connecticut has been ahead of the national curve in embracing the reforms, advocates warned that with Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling, Connecticut’s head start in pursuing federal health care dollars is over.
“We need to get going, get going, get going,” said Ellen Andrews, executive director, Connecticut Health Policy Project, a New Haven-based nonprofit health care advocacy group. “Not all of the (federal) money in this act is unlimited.”
Andrews added that “now that it all survived” the court challenge, “we can all move forward.” But that means not only Connecticut, but other states that might not have been pursuing federal funding opportunities as aggressively as they awaited the high court’s decision.
“Connecticut has been very proactive,” said Victoria Veltri, the state’s healthcare advocate.
Connecticut not only acted in 2010 to dramatically expand its health care program for poor single adults without minor children, but it also is ahead of most states at developing a health care exchange. This involves a set of state-regulated health plans from which individuals and small businesses can buy coverage with the assistance of federal subsidies.
All states must have exchanges operational and federally certified by Jan. 1, 2014, under the federal act.
Last week Gov. Dannel P. Malloy named Kevin J. Counihan, who helped implement the nation’s first health care reform law in Massachusetts, to lead Connecticut’s exchange.
“But there are opportunities outside of the exchange and I’m confident we will be even more proactive going forward,” Veltri said. “There are limited pots of money in some areas.”
For example, Veltri said, the reform act provides periodic grants to help states develop heath care workforce strategies — such as how to attract more general practitioners, or more specialist physicians to Connecticut.
Veltri also noted that her office already has received approximately $530,000 in consumer assistance program grants under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to help thousands of residents enroll in health care or pursue coverage grievances and appeals.
With Connecticut hoping to receive close to $200 million in additional federal Medicaid dollars by 2014, the president of the Connecticut State Medical Society said officials here also could set the state apart by raising payments to providers who treat Medicaid patients. Boosting them to match Medicare program levels could lead more doctors to treat Medicaid patients, according to Dr. Michael Krinsky.
“Now it’s up to state officials to choose whether to pursue this important course of action to increase access,” Krinsky added.