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New Connecticut health plan for uninsured accepting applications

ROCKY HILL, Conn. - Mariana Luari would like to provide her 12 employees at the Town Line Diner with health insurance, but she and her husband can't afford it.

'When they get sick, I'm worried,' she said. 'Most of my employees just go into Stop & Shop and take over-the-counter medication. It takes them forever to get healthy.'

That's why Luari was beaming Monday when Gov. M. Jodi Rell chose her diner to announce the state is accepting applications for a basic health insurance policy targeted to uninsured adults.

'It's a big day for us,' Luari said.

In 2006, neighboring Massachusetts passed legislation creating near universal health care coverage for residents. The program requires adults to purchase health insurance or else face financial penalties. It offers government subsidies to help people cover the cost.

Connecticut's initiative, aimed at helping the estimated 5 percent to 6 percent of state residents without coverage, is not mandatory.

The state sought bids from private insurance companies willing to provide a basic benefits package, ranging from primary care office visits to maternity care, for a low premium. Depending on a person's income, premiums can range from $75 to $259 a month. The state is subsidizing premiums for lower-income participants.

Enrollees with pre-existing medical conditions will also be covered.

'There is no other plan like this, by the way, in the United States,' Rell said. 'We are leading the way.'

Ken Thorpe, a health policy researcher at Atlanta's Emory University, said Vermont and Maine have both come up with affordable insurance plans similar to Connecticut's that include subsidies for low income enrollees.