2011 State Legislation Session Recap (Part 2) – New Laws on the Books
This is the second in a series from our consultant Alison Johnson, a state budget expert and longtime legislative analyst, about how the Connecticut Health Foundation tracks legislation as part of our work for health justice.
The momentum of federal health care reform reverberated in the halls of the legislative office building (the “LOB” to insiders) this session, as the General Assembly reshaped some aspects of how health insurance is bought and sold. Legislators also created new opportunities to address racial and ethnic disparities in settings as varied as health care and school systems.
Here are some highlights from bills that passed that CT Health is following:
Health Care Reform
- An Act Establishing a State Health Insurance Exchange (Public Act 11-53), which implements portions of the federal health care reform law. Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, most Connecticut citizens and employers will have a new place to shop for health insurance plans, and this is the bill that creates the new market. CT Health is following the creation of the Connecticut exchange closely, combined with proposed federal rules that will govern how all the health insurance exchanges work across the country.
- An Act Concerning Health Care Reform (Public Act 11-58), which allows cities and towns to join the state employee health plan starting Jan. 1, 2012. Known as the “pooling bill,” the idea is to create cost savings by increasing the number of people in the state employee pool, thus spreading health insurance risks and costs across a greater number of people. Nonprofits will be welcomed into the plan starting Jan. 1, 2013.
This bill also creates the SustiNet Health Care Cabinet, which will advise the Governor and a new Office of Health Reform and Innovation on the development of an integrated health care system for our state. Twenty-eight people will be appointed to the Cabinet by August 1st (This is an advisory body only, since legislators didn’t approve the full SustiNet health care plan). Unlike the other bills we mention here, the Governor chose to let this bill become law without his signature.
Children’s Mental Health
- An Act Concerning Mental or Nervous Conditions under the Connecticut Unfair Insurance Practices Act (Public Act 11-163). This legislation generally prohibits health insurance companies from refusing to insure a consumer or limiting their coverage because of a mental or nervous condition (there are some exceptions if the company’s decision is based on sound insurance risk principles or their expected experience). This law takes effect Oct. 1, 2011, and will benefit both children and adults. The law already protects people with a physical or developmental disability.
- Act Concerning Closing the Academic Achievement Gap (Public Act 11-85). In response to growing concerns about the education achievement gap, legislators created a new task force to tackle this problem. By July 1, 2012, the task force will develop a master plan to address the disparity in the academic performance of students between genders; racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups; and English language learners and students whose primary language is English. Closing the achievement gap will demonstrate the state’s collective commitment to ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their potential; addressing their mental health needs is one critical piece of that puzzle.
Racial & Ethnic Health Disparities
- An Act Concerning the University of Connecticut Health Center (Public Act 11-75), which expands and renovates the UConn Health Center campus in Farmington. The expansion includes a health disparities institute that will enhance research and the delivery of care to minority and medically underserved people in Connecticut. We applaud the increased attention to health care disparities and look forward to the innovations that the institute will bring once it opens it doors.
We are excited about the possibilities for change that these new laws bring. We’ll keep you updated on progress as they roll out. Next time, we’ll blog about the state budget, which is another story in itself!