coronavirus in connecticut

Democrats Weigh Public Health Insurance Option

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Democratic state lawmakers and officials believe the election results, which saw them increase their majority in the General Assembly, were a mandate to reform health insurance here in Connecticut. One way they plan to do that is through a government-sponsored public option. 

“We are a typical middle-class family. Our health insurance costs, our monthly health insurance costs exceed our mortgage,” Terra Volpe said. 

Volpe testified in favor of the public option last year six days before the legislature adjourned due to COVID.

“We hear the same thing over and over again that there isn’t enough competition in the market today that prices are too high and that people who can afford the premium, often can’t afford the deductible,” Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said. 

That’s why lawmakers like Lesser believe a plan created by the state of Connecticut and administered by the private sector would help lower costs. 

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said a public option will help lower costs because the state doesn’t have to worry about shareholders or being profitable. It also has negotiating power.

“We are not an insurance company. We don’t run an insurance company out of my office but we contract with the biggest insurance companies in the country,” Lembo said. 

What is a public option?

“It’s a commercially administered, publicly sponsored plan. It is a private-public partnership,” Lembo said. 

What happens when the premiums don’t cover the health insurance claims in a public option?

“What happens is the backstop is the state of Connecticut. I’m not gonna like run away from that,” Lembo said.   

Republican lawmakers said that means Connecticut taxpayers would be on the hook.

Susan Halpin, head of the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, said the industry will adamantly oppose a public option.

“We believe it’s really a false promise that’s going to be backed up by the taxpayers,” Halpin said.  

Since the legislation has yet to be written, it’s unclear where Gov. Ned Lamont might stand. He’s waiting to see the details.

“It’s not the most important issue for most people in the state. We had 800,000 people lose their job in the last six months,” Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said.

"Many of those people who lost their jobs, also lost their health insurance, so the issue of finding quality affordable health care, just became top of mind to hundreds of thousands of people and families in our state," he continued.

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