Statement Regarding Public Option Proposal & Alternative Ways to Lower Health Care Costs, Improve Accessibility

March 7, 2019

State Senator Kevin Kelly (R-Stratford), ranking member of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, released the following statement regarding concerns about House Bill 7267 and highlighting an alternative proposal (Senate Bill 136) to reduce health care costs and improve accessibility.

“Republicans and Democrats in Connecticut have a shared goal to make health care more affordable and accessible to all people. While Democrats in Washington never properly funded a flawed Affordable Care Act design, and therefore failed to live up to its promises, Connecticut can and should do all we can to fulfill the affordable health care promises our residents deserve. That is why I have serious concerns about creating a taxpayer backed public option. This is something that would be extremely expensive for our state and would crowd out already limited state funding for core services for the most vulnerable. Rough cost estimates provided at today’s press conference were not based in reality. There is a reason why President Obama did not go in this direction when he developed the Affordable Care Act and there is a reason why no other state has this system. A public option would actually lead to more expensive health care costs over the long term and destabilize the individual market through less competition as private insurers would be forced to compete with a government option that can offset costs at any time simply by raising taxes. A public option sounds good in theory. But Connecticut’s current public option, Medicaid, tells a different story. Not all providers accept Medicaid. Quality of treatment is a problem. People often wait on the phone or at the DSS office for hours. The Medicaid experience is by no means the gold standard. For Democrats to want to put everyone on a system like this is problematic.”

“Health care costs are out of control as a result of the failed policies in Washington and Connecticut needs to act to ensure care is accessible, affordable and of the quality all people deserve. Instead of pursuing an extremist public option, there is another way we can achieve our goals of making care more accessible and affordable. We can reduce premiums and stabilize the market to keep costs down by establishing a state-operated reinsurance program and requiring Connecticut to apply for a state innovation waiver to fund such program. I’ve proposed this as Senate Bill 136, which has had a public hearing and remains before the Insurance Committee. Reinsurance programs give states the option to increase choice and competition within their insurance market while protecting people with pre-existing conditions. This gives states flexibility to address problems caused by the ACA and to give Connecticut residents more affordable options to get health coverage that better meets their needs. 

“I look forward to continuing a conversation about health care that has always been bipartisan here in Connecticut, but that conversation has to include an honest analysis of the drawbacks to a public option, its costs and the long term impact on taxpayers and the entire healthcare system. Destabilizing the market will mean higher insurance costs across the board and less competition. That’s not good for patients, nor is it the right message to send if we want to continue being the insurance capital of the world.”