Insurance companies warn that a plan to expand publicly-funded health insurance could drive businesses out of Connecticut

Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant
·3 min read

Five of the state’s leading insurance carriers have sent an ominous warning to Gov. Ned Lamont, saying that a plan to expand publicly funded health insurance could drive businesses out of Connecticut.

“The pandemic has demonstrated that employees can work virtually, making it easier for companies to choose where they are domiciled and grow,” the top executives wrote in a letter sent this week. “As a result, it has never been more critical for the State to create a climate that retains and attracts businesses that will help stabilize the economy. All of us will have to decide where it will be best to deploy our resources long term.”

The letter was signed by Gail K. Boudreaux, president and chief executive officer of Anthem; Thomas A Croswell, CEO of the combined Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan; David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corp.; Dirk McMahon, president and chief operating officer of UnitedHealth Group; and Karen S. Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health Corp.

“The governor has been on the record saying he doesn’t support any proposal where taxpayers are the backstop,” Lamont spokesman Max Reiss said Thursday. “He’s been focused on providing savings for consumers by addressing the underlying cost of health care through reductions in prescription drug prices and increased accessibility to plans available on Access Health Connecticut.”

The letter, which dramatically raises the stakes in the legislative battle, is reminiscent of a last-minute health insurance fight in the General Assembly in 2019. Comptroller Kevin Lembo said Cigna threatened to quit Connecticut, killing health insurance legislation. Cigna said it lobbied hard against the legislation, but denied any threats.

“I’ve seen this movie before,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, House chairman of the finance committee. “And it’s disappointing that they have chosen to resort to veiled threats about something that’s not going to be a significant impact to them.”

The executives took aim at a “new tax on policyholders,” a reference to a $50 million tax that would be used to subsidize health insurance costs for Connecticut residents who would otherwise not be able to afford insurance on the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, exchange.

Scanlon, D-Guilford, and the legislature’s Democratic leadership have said that because health insurers are not paying a $300 million federal tax that Congress has dropped, companies are saving $250 million with a state tax.

Scanlon said the legislation, which passed the insurance committee with an amendment strongly opposed by the Democratic leadership and now awaiting action in the finance committee, is a “public- private partnership run by the insurance companies.”

“It’s not a big government solution,” he said. “This is not single-payer health care. It’s not ‘Medicare for All.’”

His message to insurers is, “Government is designing a plan. If you want to sell the plan go have at it.”

The legislation would expand the Partnership Plan, a health insurance pool for municipal and school employees, to include others seeking a government option. The executives, echoing criticism from the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, questioned the Partnership Plan’s consistent solvency and said it does not have the “proven experience” to run a health insurance plan for Connecticut residents.

“Private employers and taxpayers should not fund unsustainable public policy pursuits,” the executives said.

Lembo has defended the Partnership Plan, saying it has a record of bringing more in premiums than it pays in claims.

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