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Last night, the House passed a stripped down version of the Charter Oak fix bill, 5617, leaving only mental health parity. The House version removed critical provisions including dental and vision care, removing limits on prescriptions, medical equipment and lifetime limits on care, independent grievance and accountability options, sustainability provisions, prohibition against contracting with unlicensed HMOs, reduction in emergency room copays, limits on HMO administrative costs, separation from the troubled HUSKY program, a prudent delay to collect consumer input, research costs, and benefits to build a better program and, my favorite, removal of the requirement that consumers be uninsured for six months before enrolling. The stripped down version was the result of lobbying by mental health special interests. It is important to note that Charter Oak, in its original design, does include mental health services, but coverage is not unlimited. Not all advocates, including this one, supported passage of this stripped down bill. This highlights the dangers of making broad policy decisions behind closed doors at the harried end of the session without time for reflection or input from the world outside the Capitol lobbies.
Ellen Andrews