Bordonaro: State-Backed Public Option Won’t Be The Antidote To Rising Healthcare Costs
Hartford Business Journal
Greg Bordonaro
January 31, 2022

Will state lawmakers rekindle efforts this legislative session to propose a public health insurance option in Connecticut?

It’s not clear yet, but health insurers are already trying to get in front of the issue.

They helped fund a new study by KNG Health Care Consulting, a health economics and policy consulting group, that concluded a proposal to expand access to a state-administered insurance plan to small businesses, nonprofits and multiemployer groups — introduced to the legislature last year as Senate Bill 842 — would likely force the state to raise taxes on health insurers and residents, increase premiums and possibly increase the number of uninsured people.

The report — supported by Connecticut’s Health Care Future, a project of the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which represents hospitals, health insurers and other private-sector interests — said state revenue from premium taxes and health insurance assessments could fall significantly, by up to $122 million by 2023, if a public health insurance plan was adopted.

Regardless of the report’s findings, state lawmakers should drop their focus on a public health insurance plan — which could create further budget instability — and take a more holistic view on how to rein in healthcare costs.

Taxpayers, of course, would be the backstop if such a plan is launched and can’t cover benefit costs. Connecticut may be enjoying a short-term surplus now, but it lacks longer-term budget stability. It doesn’t need to heighten those risks.

Questions have already been raised about the solvency of the state-run healthcare plan for municipal employees — known as the Partnership Plan — that public option proponents want to expand access to.

And there isn’t enough evidence that a public option can deliver on its promise of providing affordable, lower-cost coverage without major government subsidies.

A few states in recent years — Washington, Colorado and Nevada — have adopted their own versions of public options. At the very least, Connecticut ought to wait and see how those programs unfold before moving in a similar direction.

Of course, Connecticut also risks losing high-paying insurance jobs. Insurers, which have strong influence at the state Capitol, have lobbied strongly against public option legislation in the past, even making indirect threats to relocate jobs elsewhere.

Beyond those concerns, the bigger issue is that a public option fails to meaningfully address the rising cost of care.

Read the full editorial in the Hartford Business Journal HERE.