The “Connecticut Option”: A Repeat of Broken Health Care Promises

May 29, 2019

By Senator Len Fasano & Senator Kevin Kelly

When Democrats rolled out the Affordable Care Act they made promises to reduce the cost of health care, improve quality and increase access. Today, it’s clear that their one-sided approach failed to deliver on each of those promises. Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed and far too many people still don’t have access to quality care.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that we need to fix the problems created by these broken promises. Unfortunately, the “Connecticut Option,” crafted in the dark by Democrats without a single public hearing, would further jeopardize the accessibility and quality of health care in our state. It would also add new costs directly onto consumers; increasing premiums.

The “Connecticut Option” promises lower insurance rates, but the reality is it institutes a new $10 per member, per month surcharge on individual health insurance policies and a new $5 per member per month surcharge on group health insurance policies. This means health insurance gets more expensive for many, but state employees will be exempt. Families will be forced to pay more for their health insurance, while the governing class gets a free ride.

At the same time thousands of Connecticut families have to pay more, the “Connecticut Option” seeks to artificially reduce insurance rates through a new state sponsored insurance option that is the first step to socialized medicine and assumes government can do a better job than the state’s flagship insurance industry. To understand the concerns about this, just look at Connecticut’s current public options, Medicaid and the VA health system. They are by no means the gold standard. Not all providers accept such coverage. Quality of care is a problem. People often wait on the phone or at state offices for hours because state government has remained unchanged since the 1950s. Yet instead of looking to enhance access to quality care, the state remains focused on growing state sponsored options that leave much to be desired.

The Democrat plan includes expanding Medicaid HUSKY eligibility. But to fund this, Democrats would reinstitute the individual mandate on people who choose not to purchase insurance – with Democrats fining residents $25 million. Ironically, instead of the mandate being used to encourage people to obtain insurance, the “Connecticut Option” uses it as an outright money grab to force some who may not be able to buy insurance to pay a penalty to subsidize someone else. The penalty is not intended to change behavior, it’s an egregious way to take money from people to collect the exact amount the program requires to operate.

The Democrat proposal also promises to reduce drug costs by asking the federal government to approve importation of drugs from Canada, but there’s no guarantee the federal government will allow this. At the same time, the “Connecticut Option” would impose a new $20 million tax on opioids so Democrats can fund their promises – a tax that will be pushed on to consumers. Taxing opioids when they are a medical necessity is just another money grab, being masked as a way to fight opioid abuse. While Democrats made a promise to lower the cost of prescriptions, the only guarantee is that medication costs will increase.

There are other ways Connecticut can enhance affordability and accessibility of quality care. For example, Republicans have proposed establishing a state-operated reinsurance program (Senate Bill 136) to offer more affordable options. But unlike the Democrats’ reinsurance proposal, it makes health care a priority within the state’s budget and would not impose a new tax on consumers or fines on individuals.

Historically, health care has not been a partisan issue in Connecticut – and it shouldn’t be. Connecticut’s bipartisan health care reforms have made our state a national leader in addressing problems like surprise billing and high prescription drug costs. Connecticut should continue developing reforms with all voices and ideas at the table. The “Connecticut Option” is a departure from what has worked, and a return to the unfulfilled Democrat promises that created the broken system we are trying to fix today.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano represents the 34th Senate District including Durham, East Haven, North Haven and Wallingford. State Senator Kevin C. Kelly, ranking member of the Insurance Committee, represents the 21st Senate District including Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford.