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Fixing Connecticut's Medically Underserved Areas

This week's installment of Capitol DisPatch focuses on a variety of bills on the floor in Hartford.

Some lawmakers, together with the Connecticut State Medical Society, said they have just the prescription for medically underserved areas.

Lawmakers heard testimony on SB 405, proposed legislation that would let up to 10 communities be designated Targeted Health Areas. These would be areas that lack adequate access to health care or have a high rate of chronic disease. However, to make this work $10 million in bonding is needed. In the current fiscal climate, that’s not a small side effect.

“Anything with a price tag over a dollar is a hiccup,” said state Rep. Chris Perone, a Democrat representing Norwalk in the 137th House District and a member of the Commerce Committee. 

The bill was introduced by State Rep. Jeffrey Berger, a Democrat representing Waterbury in the 73rd House District. As House Chair of the Commerce Committee, Berger unveiled details of the proposed bill with the Connecticut State Medical Society (CSMS) last week.

The bill “is truly significant because it will allow physicians to focus their energy in areas where patients need them most while providing much-needed incentives to bring new physicians here ot practice,” CSMS President Dr. Michael M. Krinksy said in a press release.

Eighty percent of the state’s physician practices have fewer than five doctors, according to CSMS. 

The state Department of Economic and Community Development supports the bill's intent but opposes creating Targeted Health Areas. 

"The measures contained within are burdensome and would interfere with the agency's mission of business recruitment and retention. Furthermore there is no means to evaulate the performance of hte programs," said Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith in her testimony before the Commerce Committee.

Shave and a Cut 

The Joint Committee on Public Health will hear testimony regarding HB 5517, a proposal to see whether the Nutmeg State should start a barbershop apprenticeship program.

The Connecticut State Apprenticeship Council, together with the Commissioner of Public Health and the Executive Director of the Latino and Puerto Rican Affairs Commission, want to consider the feasibility of a program.

Their report, due Jan. 1, 2013, would include recommendations for establishing a barbershop apprenticeship program, how long it would take to set up program, and what kind of professional experience apprentices participating in the program need to have.

Public Health Committee member state Rep. David Scribner, a Republican representing Bethel and Brookfield in the 107th House District, still wants more information, his press secretary Julia Sorensen said in an email.

“I discussed the matter with Rep. Scribner earlier, and he is not yet taking a formal position on the bill as he is still in the process of considering some of the details,” she said, “including what spurred the bill and what the full costs and benefits of the program's implementation will be.”

Alimony Adjustment

Area lawmakers will consider whether Connecticut’s alimony structure is as passé as Jell-O molds: that is to say it belongs to an era when most women didn’t work and counted on their husbands’ incomes. 

The Judiciary Committee will consider HB 5509, proposed legislation regarding how much and for just how long alimony must be paid.

According to the current language of the proposed bill, alimony is defined as a “payment of support from a spouse who has the ability to pay, to a spouse in need of support for a reasonable length of time, with the goal of allowing the spouse who is the recipient of alimony to become self-sufficient.”

State Rep. Themis Klarides, a Republican representing Woodbridge, Orange and Derby in the 114th House District, is one of the committee member’s that will hear testimony during a public hearing on the bill.

"I think the point of this is alimony serves a valid purpose, but there are situations where it is taken advantage of," Klarides said. "To me it's fixing an inequity and updating our laws to reflect the times."

Proposed changes include ensuring that alimony awarded on or after Oct. 1, 2012, shall not exceed one-half the number of months a couple was married. The bill asks alimony awards must factor advanced age, chronic illness or unusual health for either party, sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains that weren’t allocated in the parties’ divorce.

In addition, legislators will consider whether the alimony recipient is living with someone in a relationship and is “economically interdependent with another person.”

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