Connecticut Republicans offer health insurance plan while panning Democrats’ proposal for state-run program

Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant
·2 min read

Legislative Republicans on Monday criticized a Democratic health insurance proposal that would establish a state-run insurance plan in Connecticut and instead offered a reinsurance plan intended to hold down rapidly rising costs.

Sen. Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said the Democratic legislation, known as a public option and earmarking up to $50 million for the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, is a tax on premiums that will increase the cost of insurance for middle-class families.

“Make no mistake, this is not a business-friendly partnership,” the Stratford Republican said in an online news conference. “We are not going to keep the good-paying actuarial and insurance jobs. This is a government-run program that’s going into direct competition with a flagship industry.”

Republicans are proposing legislation that would require the state Office of Health Strategy to establish health care cost growth benchmarks intended to hold down costs; import Canadian prescription drugs; and establish a reinsurance program to shield insurers from very high claims.

Gov. Ned Lamont said he backs the reinsurance idea, citing “substantial subsidies” from Washington,

“If anybody is backing away from that we should sit down and talk and tell me why,” he said at his regular Monday afternoon press briefing at the Capitol.

Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, the ranking House Republican on the General Assembly’s insurance committee, said the public option is a different approach to a familiar problem, which is skyrocketing health insurance costs.

“Instead of fixing what we have, we’re just coming up with a new name, new packaging, same concept,” she said.

Sen. Matt Lesser, Senate chairman of the insurance committee, rebutted Republican criticism, saying the GOP alternative offers “a lot of rhetoric, but something that is very short on substance.”

The Middletown Democrat said in a different news conference the Republican legislation doesn’t address high insurance costs for small business and is “preserving the status quo” by putting into law an executive order by Gov. Ned Lamont related to reinsurance and legislation that would allow drugs from Canada.

Lesser said the Republicans’ reinsurance plan omits details on “how that would work or how they would pay for it.” Reinsurance would raise out-of-pocket costs and premiums for low- and moderate-income working people in Connecticut, he said.

The health insurance debate is shaping up as among the biggest in the legislative session, which will adjourn in June. Health insurers are readying for another battle similar to 2019 when fierce industry lobbying killed Democratic legislation.

Democrats say the coronavirus pandemic has made efforts to reduce health insurance costs imperative.

Stephen Singer can be reached at ssinger@courant.com.