Mayor DeStefano submits testimony for universal healthcare
(2/1/2007) Testimony of: John DeStefano, Jr., Mayor of New Haven
Regarding: Proposed S.B. No. 1 An Act Increasing Access To Affordable, Quality Health Care.
January 31, 2007
My name is John DeStefano, Jr. and I’m Mayor of the City of New Haven. I’d like to thank the co-chairs of the Public Health Committee Mary Ann Handley and Peggy Sayers, and all the members for hearing my testimony.
By example, for years Connecticut did not invest in its transportation infrastructure. That failure to invest, that failure of vision left our state behind economically, diminished the quality of life of our families, and made our current investments more costly and more difficult to implement. We left our people behind while other states moved past us.
This year, this legislative session, this very day, we are at a decisive moment that will affect job creation, the quality of life of our families, and our state’s competitiveness for years to come. We have an opportunity before us that we can accomplish. It is an opportunity whose achievement we will fail to reach:
• Not for lack of resources;
• Not for lack of ideas;
• Nor because of lack of political support – because the people of Connecticut are ready to do this –
The goal that Connecticut can accomplish by the end of this legislative session is universal health care for every man, woman and child in the State of Connecticut. And, should we fail to accomplish that goal it will – as with our transportation policies – result more than any thing else, from a failure of vision, of what is possible at this moment, of what we can do when we work together.
There is nothing more powerful we can do to create jobs, to secure the well being of our most vulnerable families, and to save taxpayers money than to accomplish universal health care in Connecticut in 2007.
Over the next few weeks and months the debate will rage about what that really means, and how to achieve it. And probably no single plan that has been advocated to date is where we need to end up, but I believe there are some clear principals that are essential elements of any universal health care plan.
First, we must help small businesses better afford the costs of health care for their employees. As it stands now, job growth is fueled by small businesses – but these businesses are disproportionately hurt by high health care costs. To help small businesses we must give them an opportunity to pool their coverage’s to reduce costs and the tax code incentives to provide health care to their employees.
Second, in order to control costs and create a healthier pool our universal health care plan must place a strong emphasis on prevention and wellness. The most chronic and ultimately expensive illnesses that Connecticut residents face result from diseases such as diabetes and heart disease that can be mitigated or avoided altogether by encouraging people to improve their diet and lifestyle. Incentives to alter behavior and access to preventative medical treatment can give people the opportunity to avoid illness.
Third, any universal health care plan must face the realities of the economy of today and tomorrow and that our workers and families face. The plan must be portable. As family members move from one job to the next, or in and out of the workforce, or from school to work to back to school, they must be able to maintain access to their healthcare.
Fourth, universal health care can only be accomplished if we see that we are all in this together. That means that individuals, employers, medical providers and elected officials need to all be responsible for achieving health care coverage for everyone. Individuals should pay a portion of their health care coverage, the tax code ought to reflect a difference for employers who do – or don’t – provide health care coverage and health care providers need to step up to provide better access to health care in all parts of Connecticut.
Fifth is choice. A strong universal health care system will ensure choice of several health care plans. Families ought to be able to decide what health care plan works best for them in an environment where they are informed and a full participant in making that choice.
I have attached to my testimony a proposal on how Connecticut can accomplish this goal:
• Through the creation of the Connecticut Health Care Consortium from which small businesses, families and individuals could purchase health insurance coverage, thus combining the small business and individual markets to create a large risk pool to open up access and drive down costs;
• Proposals to restructure the tax code so that Connecticut would have a corporate tax structure that encourage and help businesses to provide affordable and portable health care coverage to their employees.
• Ideas on how all plans participating in the consortium could be required to offer annual wellness assessments and personalized wellness plans for their members. How individuals below the federal poverty level could be eligible for an increased subsidy if they participate in the wellness assessments and take steps outlined in their wellness plans.
We can do this –we can do this better than any other sate in the nation. And in doing so, we will create a Connecticut that is more economically competitive, whose families have access and take advantage of the best health care delivery system in the world and show ourselves that – unlike our transportation policy - we don’t have to fall behind in order to lead. This Legislature in an enviable position – it has the opportunity to create a legacy in this coming month that will well serve the people of Connecticut for decades to come.
Thank you for your attention.
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