Op-Ed | The Republican solution on affordable health care (CT Post)

March 27, 2023

Op-ed by Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly and Chief Deputy Republican Leader Tony Hwang, as published in the CT Post:


What a recent Hearst Connecticut Media editorial characterizes as the “ wrong ” way forward is actually part of a better way to make health care less expensive and more accessible for working- and middle-class families, small businesses and nonprofit organizations in Connecticut. Here’s why:


Connecticut is unaffordable. Our health care system is overly complicated. Senate Republicans are offering achievable solutions which will reduce premiums by 30 percent. That’s an annual savings to the average family of four of $7,000, almost $600 a month. That’s real money for real families.


Do we have your attention now?


Our “ A Better Way to Affordable Health Care ” proposal implements a reinsurance program to defray high cost claims, eliminates a tax requirement when buying health insurance and uses benchmarking of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies for transparency to control their costs. Our plan also calls for small businesses to join in associations to pool resources to buy group health plans together.


This latter solution has bipartisan — and bicameral — support. It notably also has the backing of 37 organizations, including the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the Connecticut Community Nonprofit Alliance, the Connecticut Restaurant Association, the Connecticut Brewers Guild, as well as Chambers of Commerce from Danbury to New Haven to Waterbury and the Naugatuck Valley.


Bruce Adams, president of the Credit Union League of Connecticut, which counts about 60 member organizations, said association health plans would open up more affordable options for many organizations. “If our 60 members all signed on to one plan, we would have a couple thousand people in our group, so clearly we could obtain health insurance at a cheaper rate,” Adams said.


But allowing small businesses, nonprofits and their employees across our state to “thrive” is dismissed by the Hearst editorial as a “half-measure.” Why? The editorial apparently prefers an alleged “robust” approach: a public option state-run health care payment system.


And a note of correction: The editorial erred when it claimed that self-funded association plans can theoretically discriminate. In fact, the bill prohibits that conduct, stating that the association self-funded plans “shall provide coverage for essential health benefits as defined in the Affordable Care Act” such as pre-existing conditions.


Here’s the problem with the public option. It simply is not insurance. It is a government payment program like Medicaid, Medicare (without a supplement), or V.A., benefits which are not the health insurance gold standards. As a result, it has none of the ACA’s protections, like mandatory coverage for essential health benefits or protection for pre-existing conditions. It is not regulated by the Connecticut Insurance Department to make sure it is properly funded, putting the taxpayers at risk of paying any program deficits. It would also eliminate tens of thousands of good-paying Connecticut insurance jobs.


Meanwhile, the state’s attempt at a public option, the Partnership Plan 2.0, which was supported by majority Democrats, does allow discrimination based on geography and utilization rate. The Partnership Plan is not insurance, it is not regulated, and it does not have the protections of the ACA. It has also continually run a deficit and put the taxpayers at risk. Consider:


In 2018, the plan had a deficit of $10.1 million. State taxpayers covered the losses.


In 2019, the plan had a deficit of $31.9 million. State taxpayers covered the losses.


In 2021, a $40 million bailout was needed to keep the plan afloat.


After that bailout, and contrary to promises that it would lower health care costs for Partnership members, the Partnership Plan increased premiums by 10.5 percent, making care more expensive for teachers and municipal employees across the state


It paid out 8.7 percent more in claims than it received in premiums during 2022, putting the plan underwater by $54.1 million in 2022.


Eight municipal groups left the Partnership Plan this year because they felt that they could find cheaper options in the private insurance market.


Connecticut Senate Republicans have a real, detailed, achievable solution to make our health care more affordable for everyone. Our ideas have already attracted support from Democrats who understand that our families are taking it on the chin every day. Together we understand that family budgets are breaking, and people are living paycheck to paycheck as they have difficulty making hard choices on things like health insurance.


A 30 percent reduction in premiums is achievable.


Annual savings for working class and middle class families totaling thousands of dollars a year is achievable.


Providing health care relief for struggling small businesses and their employees in Connecticut — a truly transformational benefit — is achievable.


Our plan achieves these goals through transparency, through competition, and by enabling the marketplace to work better for the consumer. Our plan could become reality in the next three months and start Connecticut on that more affordable path.


Connecticut Senate Republicans believe all of this is worthy of a conversation at the Capitol. The promises of the Affordable Care Act — to create affordable and accessible quality care for all people — have not been delivered for far too many Connecticut residents. It’s past time to give families the healthcare they were promised. Senate Republicans will continue to offer thoughtful and impactful solutions to provide relief. Fighting to create a more affordable Connecticut is not the “wrong” way. It’s a vision we can achieve together. It’s the better way.