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April 1, 2021

Business leaders, owners push back on healthcare proposals

HBJ Photo | Steve Laschever CBIA CEO Chris DiPentima.

Members of the state’s food, farming, and small business sectors Thursday came out against proposals from state Democrats and Gov. Ned Lamont intended to expand healthcare coverage, arguing that the plans will inevitably increase financial pressure on local employers.

At a virtual conference hosted by the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, the three speakers took aim at SB 842, which would open up a state-run health care plan to small businesses and nonprofits, and a separate, more scaled back bill pushed by Lamont, both of which include provisions for assessments on insurers that could bring in up to $50 million per year.

Opponents said they worry that the costs will ultimately be absorbed by working-class families and small enterprises.

“Every time that we impose a new tax on farm employers it stymies growth,” said Joan Nichols, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau. “We’re very concerned this will be another hit on the agricultural business sector.”

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said the issue points to broader problems with Connecticut’s cost of living.

“These taxes are going to push people out of our state because they just can’t afford to live here,” Pesce said. “A lot of people have left, but brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have that option.”

“We see this tax —along with several other proposals swirling around— as just making it harder to make a living,” Pesce added.

“Hearing about there being an extra cost to doing business in the state is nothing new, but I have to wonder how much the lawmakers think we can take before we break,” said Steve Fradianni, president of M&S Paving and Sealing. “We stretch every year to make it work.”

Leading Democrats and State Comptroller Kevin Lembo unveiled SB 842 in February. They have argued the legislation would drive down premiums and deductibles for individuals purchasing health insurance through AccessHealthCT, the state’s health insurance exchange, and create new, more affordable plans for small businesses.

Lamont has presented his own plan as a way to address stark healthcare disparities brought into focus by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the Democratic plan, it does not include an expansion of Medicaid eligibility.

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