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Protesters to Board: Add More Members or Scrap the Exchange

October 21, 2011

Watch the Children’s Mental Health Network for more updates on Health Exchanges

From CT News Junkie

A group of protesters wore Band-Aids over their mouths as they stood in front of the Power Point presentation being given at Thursday’s Insurance Exchange Board meeting.

The demonstration seemed to make board members uncomfortable, but the presentation continued as if the protesters weren’t there.

“The silent protest at the morning’s Health Insurance Exchange Board meeting, shows that residents and small business are not going to let the insurance industry take control of health care reform efforts in Connecticut,” Juan Figeruoa, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said in a statement about the protest.

Healthcare advocates wore the Band-Aids over their mouths to demonstrate how they feel they’ve been silenced by the Insurance Exchange Board. Advocates have been fighting since August when the board was first named to get two more members appointed to the board. One which represents consumers and one which represents small businesses.

Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said the Insurance Exchange Board is in clear violation of both the letter and intent of the law the governor signed and the proposed federal regulations.

He said a majority of the board should be made up of small businesses and consumers and not insurance executives.

“It’s in the preamble to the proposed regulations on page 41,872,” Swan said. “Then also within the law itself.“

“No appointee shall be employed by, a consultant to, a member of the board of directors of, affiliated with or otherwise a representative of an insurer, an insurance producer or broker, a health care provider, or a health care facility or health or medical clinic while serving on the board,” Swan read from Public Act 11-53.

He said at least three of the 14 members of the board are in clear violation of both the Connecticut statute and intent of the federal regulations.

The three board members advocates object to, include Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s appointee Mary Fox, who was on Hartford Hospital’s board and is a former Aetna executive; Sen. Minority Leader John McKinney’s appointee Mickey Herbert, the retired president and CEO of ConnectiCare, an insurance company that serves more than 240,000 individuals in Connecticut and Massachusetts; and Sen. Majority Leader Martin Looney’s appointee Dr. Robert Scalettar, a pediatrician who recently worked for Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield as its corporate medical director.

Swan said all three need to be removed and new appointments need to be made. If that doesn’t happen Swan said his organization will fight to disband the entire board and have the state participate in the federal exchange without a state board administering it.

“The intent behind the Exchange legislation is to have a consumer-friendly and consumer-oriented market of health insurance plans that the average person and small business can rely on without the fear of fine print or going bankrupt,” Figeruoa said.

Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman said advocates have the ability to go to the legislature and ask them to add more people to the board.

“I believe the people on this board are advocates for people,” Wyman said. “They care about the issue and they care about making sure this is a successful exchange.”

She said the board will continue to press forward with its business, which includes creating a quasi-public agency and hiring a chief executive officer to oversee the exchange. She urged the group to talk to their lawmakers if they want to change the composition of the board, but legislative leaders who participated in appointing the board have been silent on the issue.

Kevin Galvin, a small business owner, said he thinks that’s an “unfortunate position for the lieutenant governor to take.” He said he’s had discussions with large groups of doctors who are concerned about the linkage of some individuals to the insurance industry and what that means for the types of plans offered in Connecticut. He said the more than a dozen protesters present Thursday represent a much larger constituency.

“The success of small businesses will be a major factor in Connecticut’s economic recovery, but we cannot succeed without access to quality, affordable health insurance,” Galvin wrote in an editorial this weekend. “And it is only right that the groups who will be the most directly affected by the health insurance exchange have a voice in deciding the kind of health insurance we need.”

Keith Stover, a lobbyist for the state’s insurance companies, said he thinks the board was appointed appropriately by all of the legislative leaders and the governor and have demonstrated a “seriousness of purpose around implementation of reform and implementation of the exchange.”

“While theater might be entertaining it’s fiction and we need to be about the business of fact,” Stover said.

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