Universal Health Care Is Not the Answer

February 19, 2010

Despite popular perceptions, Republicans and Democrats are often able to agree on issues. Just this week I had the chance to look at the voting practices of my colleagues in the Senate from the 2009 legislative session and we were able to put aside partisan politics to work on issues an overwhelming majority of the time.

However, while we do often work together on legislation specific to our districts or addressing particular constituent concerns, there are issues where our philosophies diverge significantly. Aside from our obvious differences in opinion about how to balance the state budget, (Republicans wanting to cut spending, Democrats looking to “find new revenue”, i.e., raise taxes) the vote on the SustiNet Plan which passed last session broke down along party lines. In the 7th Senatorial District, I along with Republican Rep. Bacchiochi voted against the bill, and Democrat Representatives Conway, Hornish, Jarmoc, and Tallarita voted in favor of it.

While the majority has not offered us a solid estimate, the Office of Policy and Management estimates that the plan will cost taxpayers nearly $1 billion per year. To put this astronomical number in perspective, the $500 million hole in our current budget continues to grow on a daily basis. The deficit in the next fiscal year looks even more dismal with estimates nearing $3 billion. To make matters worse the Democratic House Majority Leader last week said the deficit (half of the estimated yearly cost of SustiNet) is insurmountable and the only way we will be able to reach a balanced budget is if the federal government passes a new stimulus. While such an approach may save Connecticut from raising taxes this year, taxpayers from this state will ultimately have to pay their share of these expensive recovery acts to the federal government. Patching the holes in our budget with federal funds is simply another one time fix and not a long term solution.

Despite our significant budget problems, the majority party is still lobbying for a universal health care plan, but not offering a way to pay for it. Access to health care is an issue that deserves attention and the debate currently going on in our country is a healthy one, no pun intended, though I do not agree with the federal plan. Additionally, Connecticut already has one of the most progressive forms of public health coverage. I am proud of the work we did to expand Husky A and B, but I do not believe the state run health care industry proposed in the SustiNet bill is the answer Connecticut needs.

We have work to do on many issues apart from health care reform, but our number one priority has to be getting our spending under control and setting Connecticut on the path to a brighter and better future.