CT public health option discussions resume as poll shows Americans support idea

Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo

HARTFORD — A poll released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 65 percent of the 1,196 Americans it surveyed this month support a generic government-run public option health plan.

Despite public support for the measure, the Connecticut General Assembly was unable to pass legislation that would have created what they eventually called a “Connecticut Option.”

The bill had originally envisioned small businesses being able to buy into the state-run health insurance plans for cities, towns, and boards of education. Another version of the bill required companies to lower their premiums by 20 percent and if they didn’t then the state would consider a true state-run health insurance plan.

However, the final iteration of the bill included federal waivers for reinsurance, which would allow the federal government to cover the costs of some of the most expensive claims; a measure to allow Connecticut to import drugs from Canada, which would require federal approval; and it would have created a “cost containment commission” to monitor price changes by health care providers in an effort to keep prices low, but would have offered small businesses a way to lower their rates.

On May 29, Comptroller Kevin Lembo walked into a Hartford Courant editorial board meeting and told the newspaper that the deal for a state-run health insurance pool unraveled after Cigna’s CEO, David Cordani, threatened to move his company out of Connecticut if the legislation was approved.

A spokesman for Cigna denied any such threat.

Lamont maintained Tuesday that given more time they might have been able to reach a deal.

Lembo doesn’t necessarily agree.

He said Connecticut and the nation is at a breaking point when it comes to the number of people losing coverage or seeing cost increases.

“If the dynamics don’t change, if the influence of industry isn’t moderated in some way, then the people will hold their elected officials accountable,” Lembo said in a statement. “Something will change. It’s just question of when government finally gets in sync with the needs of the people over the needs of a powerful few.”

Regardless, Lamont said the conversations have resumed.

“We spent a lot of time talking,” Lamont said. “We know that there’s a market failure when it comes to the small business market. We know in particular it’s something we’ve got to address.”

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said the “conversations” and not negotiations with the insurance industry have resumed.

But it’s unclear how fruitful those conversations will be.

Susan Halpin, executive director for the Connecticut Association of Health Plans, which lobbies on behalf of insurers, said the industry is “resolute in their opposition to further expansion of government-run health care.”

She said a “public option” would “undermine our current commercial market, disrupt coverage, and have a profound negative impact on Connecticut’s overall economy. It’s not something we can support.”

Lamont maintained there’s room for compromise.

“Here’s their opportunity to stand up,” Lamont said of the industry. “And make sure this is a piece of the market that we address in a serious way.”

Connecticut Media Group