The DCF girtl’s treatment and detention center in Bridgeport that Gov. Rell vowed yesterday to push through next week’s meeting of the State Bond Commission, is good fodder for Bridgeport politicians. On October 30, they succeeded in delaying the inevitable for a few weeks. They vented during a subsequent public hearing. Now the governor will get what she wants, at the very least because Sen. Eileen Daly, D-Westbrook, co-chairwoman of the legislative Finance Committee will vote for it. All the governor needs is one Democrat. When the issue was tabled by the commission – a very rare occurrence, indeed -amid local complaints that they were blind-sided by the DCF, Daly told the Blogster the facility is needed. So even if Rep. Chris Caruso can persuade other Democrats on the commission, such as Attorney General Dick Blumenthal, to vote against the $15-million, 36,000-square-foot DCF facility, Daly will be Rell’s ace in the hole on January 8. The governor runs the Bond Commission and sets its agenda.
Archive for December, 2009
If Mick Jagger and (Weston’s) Keith Richards Are The Glimmer Twins, What Does that Make Chris Dodd and Joe Lieberman?
Political Dissonance, perhaps?
Anyway, if you have a pulse and don’t need to see a doctor, you know what Joe Lieberman’s been doing down in Washington for the last few weeks. He’s not up for re-election until 2012 and the Blogster believes he’ll have a nice high-paying job with the health industry shortly after the election that year. But Chris Dodd has been fighting for his political life for months, hoping that state voters will forget he moved to Iowa(!!??!!) to run for president two years back just as the economy was suddenly tanking. It has been interesting, in a watch-the-car-crash way, watching him strive for redemption with the folks back home. Here’s his statement today on whatever will be the Lieberman-boiled-down version of health care reform that they’ll be calling “historic,” conveniently forgetting it has to go to a conference commitee with the House.
DODD STATEMENT ON WHAT HEALTH CARE REFORM MEANS FOR CONNECTICUT
Mr. President, I rise today not in my capacity as a senior member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, not in my capacity as one of the co-authors of the underlying legislation, but in my capacity as a Senator representing the 3.5 million residents of Connecticut.
Travel my state, Mr. President, and you will meet some of the world’s most talented and dedicated health care professionals. You will tour some of our nation’s finest hospitals, where patients get world-class treatment.
But you will also hear heartbreaking stories of middle class families who lost everything – their home, their life savings, their hope for the future – just because somebody in the family got sick.
You will meet hard-working men and women who have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket in the past decade and wonder how much longer they’ll be able to continue to afford coverage.
You will encounter small business owners facing an impossible choice between cutting off health care benefits for their employees and laying off workers.
And even among those who are healthy, those who have insurance, there is worry – worry that someone in the family will lose the job that provides the coverage, worry that a child will develop an illness not covered by their policy, worry that no matter how much they pay in premiums, their insurance doesn’t allow them to be sure of anything.
Mr. President, the residents of my state understand that the status quo is no longer sustainable – because the status quo threatens the basic economic security of every family in Connecticut. They, and their fellow Americans in each of the 50 states, sent us to Washington to take action. And act we shall.
When this bill becomes law, the people of Connecticut will begin to reap its benefits right away.
One in four residents of my state has high blood pressure. One in fourteen suffers from diabetes.
Today, Mr. President, insurance companies can use these pre-existing conditions, along with many others, as an excuse to deny these people coverage.
But, beginning 90 days after this bill becomes law, every uninsured resident of my state who has been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition will be able to find the affordable coverage they need to treat that condition.
Small businesses make up more than three in four businesses in my state, but, today, only half of them are able to offer health benefits to their workers.
Beginning in 2010, some 37,000 small businesses in my state will be eligible for tax credits to make those benefits more affordable.
Small business owners throughout my state have experienced persistent annual increases in premiums. In recent years, it is not uncommon for small business owners in Connecticut to be told they’ll have to pay twenty percent or more for the same insurance they had the previous year.
Mr. President, the bill we are about to pass will empower the state insurance exchanges like the one we will have in Connecticut in 2014 to deny insurers access to the exchange if they engage in consumer price gouging in the next few years.
For the more than half a million seniors in Connecticut, this bill protects Medicare, keeping it solvent into the future. Nearly 100,000 seniors in my state hit the prescription drug “donut hole” every year, costing some an average of more than $4,000 annually.
This bill takes the first critical steps towards closing that donut hole – and Connecticut seniors should know that I, and Chairman Baucus, and Majority Leader Reid, have committed to completing that job in conference.
Meanwhile, Connecticut seniors will see their Medicare premiums go down. They’ll see major improvements to the quality of the care they receive, resulting in as many as 29,000 hospital readmissions prevented.
And, beginning in 2011, they will be able to get a free annual checkup so that they can stay well instead of simply receiving care when they get sick.
In fact, this bill will make preventive care free for everyone.
Three in ten Connecticut residents have not had a colorectal cancer screening.
One in six women over 50 has not had a mammogram in the past two years.
Now, these important screenings and other wellness programs will be provided at no cost.
In addition, Mr. President, there are 255,000 Connecticut residents between the ages of 55 and 64 who will need home health services after they turn 65 because of an illness or an injury.
These services – whether they involve installing a handicap shower or hiring a home health care aide – will help these older Americans live in their homes in dignity and independence.
But today, Mr. President, these services are not always covered by Medicare or private insurance.
Rather than having to impoverish themselves so they qualify for Medicaid – or rely on the full-time help of loved ones – these seniors will be able to take advantage of a new, voluntary program called the CLASS Act that will provide a cash benefit to be used on these services and supports.
As the bill takes effect and the health insurance exchanges are set up, health insurance will become a buyer’s market for the people of my state.
The more than 350,000 Connecticut residents who today do not have insurance will finally have affordable options to choose from.
Nearly a quarter million people in my state could be eligible for premium credits to help take care of the cost of insurance.
And that insurance will be designed to serve the needs of Connecticut families, not the profit motives of insurance companies.
Insurance companies will be prohibited from imposing caps on the amount of care you can receive.
They will be prohibited from taking away your coverage after you’ve purchased a policy.
They will be prohibited from discriminating based on your gender or your income.
They will be forced to spend more of your premium dollars on your health care, not on bureaucrats hired to come with reasons to deny you that care.
They will be forced to offer you an appeal if your claim is denied, and each state will set up its own independent appeals process to keep them honest.
And they will be forced to provide more details about their policies so that you can shop for health insurance the same way you shop for anything else – armed with enough information to be a smart consumer.
All of these insurance industry reforms will take effect by 2014, many of them in the next year.
It’s not just consumers who will benefit from those reforms – so will Connecticut’s 15,000 physicians.
Today, they spend, on average, 140 hours and $68,000 every year just dealing with bureaucrats at health insurance companies.
That’s 2.1 million hours and $1 billion in costs overall, time and money wasted in my state.
That will end.
Because this bill cuts down on bureaucratic red tape and needless paperwork, doctors will be able to spend their time caring for patients, not fighting with insurance companies.
Meanwhile, more than 5,000 Connecticut primary care physicians will qualify for a new 5 to 10 percent payment bonus.
New programs will incentivize more young doctors to stay in primary care.
Today, 9 percent of Connecticut residents can’t access a primary care physician because there aren’t enough doctors to go around.
This bill makes an investment in our medical workforce – and a $10 billion investment in community health centers and the National Health Service Corps, which takes effect in 2010.
And, as more uninsured people gain coverage, Connecticut will no longer have to subsidize the $383 million in uncompensated care our providers deliver each year – important at a time when my state is already in serious budget trouble.
Mr. President, I’ve just recited a long list of statistics showing how Connecticut families will benefit from this bill.
But more powerful than any statistic will be what you’ll see when you tour my state after this bill has taken effect – or, more accurately, what you won’t see.
You won’t see 100 people losing their insurance every day, finding themselves cast into uncertainty and fear.
You won’t see families paying an extra $1,100 a year in health insurance premiums, the “hidden tax” paid by everyone with insurance as a result of the nearly 50 million uninsured Americans.
You won’t see seniors facing the loss of their Medicare benefits because overpayments to private insurance companies have rendered the program insolvent.
You won’t see parents lying awake at night, praying that their child’s cough goes away because they can’t afford to take him or her to see a doctor.
You won’t see people losing their homes, losing their life savings, losing their economic security – all because they got sick.
You won’t see people dying because they couldn’t afford care.
Mr. President, as a senior member of the HELP Committee and a close friend of Senator Kennedy, who led this fight for so long, it will be my honor to cast a vote in favor of this landmark legislation.
But, as one of two Senators whose job it is to look out for the people of Connecticut, supporting this bill is nothing short of my duty. I will fulfill it with pride.
Here’s a news release from the Office of State Ethics:
December 22, 2009
Four Judicial Branch employees have paid civil penalties to the Office of State Ethics (OSE) for allegedly using their state positions to obtain financial gain. Court reporters Kathy Jordan of Orange, Sharon Haas of Stamford, Deidre Clement of New Fairfield, and Mary Fjelldal of Stamford each agreed to pay a $500 civil penalty.
According to the consent orders finalized with the Office of State Ethics on Monday, all four individuals are court monitors for the Connecticut Judicial Department at the Stamford Court Reporters Office. Court monitors record and transcribe court proceedings in the Connecticut superior courts. Despite the existence of a mandatory price schedule, each of the four allegedly overcharged members of the public for the reproduction of transcripts.
Connecticut law prohibits state employees from using their public office or position to obtain financial gain for themselves. By overcharging requestors in excess of the amount allowed by the mandatory price schedule, the four monitors allegedly used their state positions to obtain financial gain. In the consent orders, the four court monitors deny any violation of the Code of Ethics.
In addition to the civil penalties, Jordan, Haas, Clement and Fjelldal also agreed to reimburse members of the public $207.75, $371.25, $528, and $212.50, respectively, the amounts of the overcharges. As further part of the settlements, each will provide a detailed invoice to all future requestors, specifying the per-page rate charged, the total number of pages, and the total amount due.
“The Code of Ethics seeks, first and foremost, to prevent public officials from using their positions for personal, financial gain, beyond what the law allows,” said OSE Executive Director, Carol Carson.
Rep. Cameron C. Staples, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the Finance Committee, said (during the floor debate this afternoon on the plan to delay raising the so-called cliff on the estate tax from $2 million to $3.5 million) that economic forecasts indicate the state’s revenue problem may turn around by 2012. The cliff is when an estate is valued at just over $2 million, then gets taxed for the entire amount. The law passed in August would raise the amount exempt from the estate tax to $3.5 million on January first. This is a tactic in pushing out the cliff hike two years, would raise about $76 million.
“We’re still facing mounting deficits,” Staples said. He said the bill would result in lower taxes for estates less than $5.7 million and higher taxes on larger estates. “We also just feel it’s not the time to enact a tax cut like this right now.”
Rep. Terry Backer, D-Stratford, said he voted for the legislation because the General Assembly has much larger, tougher decisions to make during the next couple of years. “This isn’t raising taxes,” he said in an interview. “We’re just putting them back the way they were in August.”
Capitol scribes are bemoaning House Minority Leader Larry Cafero’s announcement, which is still going on as the Blogster writes. Cafero, R-Norwalk will not run for governor after all. As reported heee last week, he slipped the news to The Hour of Norwalk first. He told a gathering in his Capitol office that family and the time commitment of running for the state’s top job are the reasons. Instead, he’ll run for another term in the House. It’s too bad, because a Jim Amann/Larry Cafero gubernatorial face off (it could have happened!) would have been alot of fun to cover next year.
Thirty five, count them, 35 employees of the General Assembly will be leaving at the end of the month after delaying their early retirements for a few months. There was a little party in the LOB on Thursday for the mass departure and the Blogster couldn’t help but wonder about the extent of institutional knowledge that’s decamping the Capitol. But it’s not as if the Legislature needs people on staff figuring out what to do with money, since for the next couple years, at least, the deficits are going to be ugly, ugly ugly. The Blogster figures that’s at least one of the reasons why House Majority Leader Denise Merrill wants to run for secretary of the state.
Anyway, departing legislative employees have been given an exit questionnaire. The two-page form asks things like what might be the most important reasons for leaving. Of course, leave it to the Joint Committee on Legislative Management, listing 18 different reasons (“dissatisfied with pay,” “conflict with co-workers,” “lack of recognition…”) and failing to include the Early Retirement Incentive. That could come under “other – please specify” line.
What the Blogster finds mirthful is page 2, where soon-to-be ex-employees are given a whopping three lines to respond to things like “I feel that the Legislature process could be improved by.” The Blogster suggests someone completing the “I feel that the working conditions could be improved by,” sentence by adding “voting the entire General Assembly out of office.”
It’s 2 p.m. and the Blogster just ducked out of teh Press Room holiday party to check on the Genius. Her head’s exposed from the wrappings now and the first 700-pound wing has been bolted into place.
It’s all very historic and exciting at 12:25 and the wings are being bolted on to the Genius.