ICYMI: ‘Connecticut Should Focus On Health Value, Not Creating A State Public Option’

HARTFORD, Conn. – As Connecticut lawmakers consider a proposal to create a new state government-controlled health insurance system, known as the state government option, Paul Grady of Alera Group Northeast is the latest economic leader to voice serious concerns about the proposal’s unaffordable costs and negative consequences.

In an op-ed published by The Day, Grady writes that the state government option “is not the solution that Connecticut needs today. Instead, we should bring the focus and attention to the area that will most immediately help patients, consumers and employers: health care costs.”

Grady continues:

I have been actively involved in efforts to improve health care value in Connecticut for the last 15 years. Some of those efforts have been public − I was an original Sustinet board member, the last effort to create a public option and I am currently vice chair of the Connecticut Cost Growth Benchmark Technical Team. My work has included the creation of private initiatives − the Connecticut Business Group on Health, the Connecticut Choosing Wisely Collaborative, and the Moving to Value Alliance. I have worked closely with people on both sides of the public option debate. Through that experience, I have learned that the goals of both are aligned in many ways and are absolutely aligned in the goal of improving health care value, meaning higher quality and better access at a lower cost.

… [T]hinking that there will be substantially lower premiums to the public using the state employee health plan is a false hope. Connecticut’s health insurance premiums are based mostly on health care costs – how much doctors and hospitals charge when we use the health care system. Health care system price increases have been rising steadily for most of the last 10 years. Those prices are passed along to health care purchasers and result in higher premiums. While many complain about health insurers, the root cause of the premium increases is complicated and responsibility is shared by the health system itself, insurer payment methods, and government policymakers.

Until we shift our attention to collaboratively making the health system itself more accountable and value oriented, the comptroller’s office negotiating a better deal with a health system is simply going to result in the health system charging other payers more. A highly likely consequence of passage of a public option will be higher costs and premiums for self-insured employers and insurers covering individuals and small and mid-sized businesses.

The Hartford Courant reports that Connecticut’s economic leaders are warning the proposal “would result in a cost shift to private purchasers of health care, lead to higher taxes or both.” They report that “[p]rivate insurance companies are an economic mainstay in Connecticut, powering as many as 50,000 direct and indirect jobs related to the industry. The Connecticut Economic Resource Center estimates that the insurance industry contributes about $15 billion to the state’s economy.” However, a state government option that threatens the private coverage market in Connecticut could put jobs at risk, at a time when many families are already struggling from economic pain and job losses driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Courant also notes that the “push to expand [state] government-sponsored insurance comes as the federal government, through the newly enacted American Rescue Plan, is funding a massive expansion of Obamacare and the state insurance exchanges, including Access Health Connecticut. Gov. Lamont, who opposes the Lembo-endorsed plan, says he favors expanding coverage through Access Health Connecticut, which offers federally-subsidized health coverage to more than 100,000 state residents through private insurance companies.”

In fact, a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) finds that “the number of people eligible for a subsidy to purchase Marketplace coverage has increased 20 percent from 18.1 million to 21.8 million with passage of” the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), while “the majority of uninsured people (63 percent) are now eligible for financial assistance through the Marketplaces, Medicaid, or Basic Health Plans. In fact, more than four out of 10 uninsured people are eligible for a free or nearly free health plan through one of these programs.”

Meanwhile, a recent poll conducted by Locust Street Group on behalf of Connecticut’s Health Care Future finds that a majority of Connecticut voters do not support the proposed state government option and are satisfied with their current health coverage and care. The poll of 800 likely voters in Connecticut reveals that a majority want lawmakers to build on and improve the current health care system rather than start over by creating a new state government-controlled health insurance system such as the state government option.

The poll’s key findings include:

  • A majority of Connecticut voters do NOT support the state government option (only 36 percent support).
  • 80 percent of voters prefer for lawmakers to BUILD ON Connecticut’s health care system rather than create a new state government option.
  • Voters are especially CONCERNED about the impacts of the state government option on access to quality care (77 percent), jobs/economic growth (74 percent), and costs (72 percent).
  • 82 percent of voters are UNWILLING to pay more in health care costs and 78 percent are UNWILLING to pay more in taxes to finance the cost of the state option.

In fact, the poll shows that during this critical time Connecticut voters want state lawmakers to focus on jobs and the economy: 60 percent of voters ranked the economy and jobs as one of their two most important issues for the state government to address, while 48 percent ranked taxes as one of their top two most important issues. Only 30 percent of voters believe health care is among the two most important issues for state lawmakers to address.

  • To read Paul Grady’s full op-ed in The DayCLICK HERE.