How CT can make health care more affordable
One of the most pressing issues facing Connecticut residents is the high cost of health care. I see it and hear every day from constituents, neighbors and friends who are struggling to pay for insurance or forgoing insurance altogether because they cannot afford it.
While Washington’s failed policies caused the problem, I believe Connecticut has a responsibility to look for solutions and do all we can for our residents to bring prices down.
Historically, health care has not been a partisan issue in our state. Connecticut Republicans and Democrats both want to make health care accessible, affordable and of the quality all people deserve. We’ve demonstrated this by passing bipartisan legislation to protect essential health benefits, expand access to prenatal care, and insulate Connecticut from the uncertainty of Washington politics.
The question now is where do we go from here? How do we address the biggest barrier to health care — unaffordable costs? How do we fulfill the promises of affordable and accessible care that Washington never delivered?
One way to do this is by establishing a state-operated reinsurance program and having Connecticut apply for a state innovation waiver to fund such program. I’ve proposed this in a bill before the Connecticut General Assembly this year (Senate Bill 136) as a way to reduce the cost of health insurance premiums and therefore increase access to care.
Reinsurance programs give states the option to increase choice and competition within their insurance market while protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Reinsurance programs work by reimbursing health insurers for claims that exceed a certain threshold. This stabilizes insurers’ claim costs and allows them to lower health insurance premiums. This gives states flexibility to address problems caused by the Affordable Care Act and to give Connecticut residents more affordable options to get health coverage that better meets their needs.
Some have asked me why I believe a reinsurance program would work better than more extreme proposals like a taxpayer backed public option. To that I explain that there’s a reason why President Obama did not create a government-run health insurance agency when he developed the Affordable Care Act and there’s a reason why no other state has a pubic option system.
A public option is extreme and would actually lead to more expensive healthcare costs over the long term and destabilize the individual market through less competition. With a public option, private insurers would be forced to compete with a government option that has the unique advantage of being able to offset costs at any time simply by raising taxes. It would also be very expensive and would crowd out already limited state funding for core services for the most vulnerable. Some may think a public option sounds good in theory.
But Connecticut’s current public option, Medicaid, tells a different story. Not all providers accept Medicaid. Quality of treatment is a problem. People often wait on the phone or at the DSS office for hours. The Medicaid experience is by no means the gold standard Connecticut should be looking to expand.
I believe instead of creating a government-run insurance agency and discouraging competition, we need to focus on creating stability and an environment where competition can drive prices down. Washington may have failed to deliver on the promises made by the Affordable Care Act, but that should not discourage Connecticut from looking for our own solutions to help people access health care.
You can follow Senate Bill 136 throughout the legislative process here: https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/"cgabillstatus".asp?selBillType=Bill&"which_year=2019&bill"_num=136
State Sen. Kevin C. Kelly represents the 21st senatorial district which includes the towns of Monroe, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford. For more information, visit www.senatorkevinkelly.com. He serves as ranking member of the General Assembly’s Insurance Committee.