Democrats’ weaponizing health care is impeding solutions [Op-Ed]

July 26, 2019

Op-ed by Len Fasano and Kevin Kelly | Special to The Hartford Courant

One of the most significant issues facing Connecticut residents is the unaffordable cost of health care.

Insurance premiums have skyrocketed, and access to affordable quality care remains out of reach for far too many.

Sadly, Democrats in Connecticut would rather weaponize health care than develop a bipartisan solution.

Democrats will admit that the current health care system is fundamentally broken. But instead of acknowledging why and working with all sides to develop and adopt proven solutions, they would rather use the problem as a political tool to divide people. They blame Republicans in Washington for “attacking” health care or trying to take health insurance away from people. But when it comes to Republicans here in Connecticut, nothing could be further from the truth.

First, the facts. Health care is unaffordable today because Democrats took a one-sided approach to create a health care system with no way to pay for relief over the long term. Once the Affordable Care Act subsidies dried up, as was designed to occur under the program, we saw premiums skyrocket. The Washington system, which was imposed on state residents by Democrats, was never fixed, and problems festered. That is the Democrat health care legacy.

If Democrats really wanted a solution to these problems within the current system, there is one available: a reinsurance program with a 1332 waiver (as endorsed by Access Health) and importation of prescription drugs from Canada.

Connecticut Republicans proposed a bill this year to establish a reinsurance program that, according to a report commissioned by Access Health Connecticut, could save people up to 20 percent on health care premiums. Unfortunately, Democrats were not willing to make this health care solution a priority.

Out of a $40 billion budget, Connecticut Democrats did not want to find the $19 million to fund the reinsurance program, despite Republicans offering numerous suggestions to achieve the needed savings. Instead, Democrats proposed a Bernie Madoff-ponzi scheme-style tax on insurers, an expense that would get pushed onto consumers and result in higher costs for the very people we are trying to bring costs down for. Even Access Health’s consultant has warned that such a tax would make the reinsurance program a wash for consumers, or hurt our chances at receiving the greatest amount of federal funding. Yet Democrats, including the state’s comptroller, have become obsessed with penalizing the insurance industry, even if it comes at a cost to consumers.

Contrary to what the comptroller has said, a state-funded reinsurance program is not a “giveaway” to insurance companies. It’s how the most successful programs have worked in other states to maximize federal matching funds and to generate the greatest benefit to residents, as confirmed by experts at Connecticut’s health insurance exchange. Insurance companies have to cover expensive Affordable Care Act mandates and requirements, many of which Republicans and Democrats both strongly support, such as coverage for preexisting conditions and dependents until age 26. But unless we do something to bring the costs of the mandates down for insurers, premiums on consumers will continue to go up.

Instead of putting politics aside and working with Republicans to develop a state-backed reinsurance program, Democrats in Connecticut have shown that they would rather capitalize on the broken system to divide us. They would rather work without Republicans to push for a “public option,” which would only guarantee instability and move Connecticut closer to socialized medicine. One only has to look at the state’s current public options, Medicaid and the VA medical system, to know that those are not the gold standard.

Connecticut is home to the insurance capital of the world. We have the best and brightest minds in health care and insurance. We can and should be a national leader in developing and implementing real solutions.

But in a Democrat-controlled state, politics has taken precedence over policy. Democrats have calculated that a weapon yields more votes than a solution. The public needs to prove them wrong.

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