Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell and the state Department of Social Services launched the Charter Oak Health Plan July 1 to help uninsured 19 through 64 year-old residents with their healthcare needs.
But the plan has come under increasing fire from healthcare advocates and Democratic legislators for failing to sign-up an adequate network of physicians and hospitals.
And things were not looking up at this morning’s meeting of the Medicaid Managed Care Council, an advisory board of lawmakers and healthcare and insurance professionals.
Healthcare providers continued to argue Charter Oak’s rates of reimbursement are unacceptable and the plan is unlikely to lure more hospitals.
Members were handed copies of a letter from the state’s Congressional Democrats complaining of Charter Oak’s “wholly inadequate provider networks.”
And questions were raised about whether Charter Oak was properly put out to bid to managed care companies.
The continued questions and criticism appeared to get to David Parrella, a director with the Department of Social Services, who near meeting’s end cut loose with a pretty emotional, at times rambling, plea for understanding.
“We’re working with the cards we’ve been dealt,” Parrella told council members.
He said it “would be nice” if Charter Oak could provide higher reimbursement rates to hospitals and physicians, but the state does not have the money.
Parrella added due to mounting state budget deficits, DSS is looking to cut at least $1 billion from it’s overall budget.
“How do we raise that kind of money?” he said.
Parrella said at least Connecticut is making an effort to help the uninsured.
“This is one state trying to do something … Maybe you don’t agree with it, maybe it’s flawed. A lot of states aren’t doing anything,” Parrella said. “We’re not mean-spirited people and we’re not stupid … Anybody who thought health reform in this state or any other state is easy, it would have been done a long time ago.”
Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, a vocal critic of how Charter Oak is being implemented, responded that no one is saying DSS employees are “mean-spirited” or “stupid.”
Harris said lawmakers want to see Charter Oak work and want to have “a frank and open discussion” with Rell about how to get that done.