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May 23, 2019

Lamont, Dems announce deal on public health insurance plan

health insurance

Connecticut is poised to offer a “public option” health insurance plan to small businesses and individuals that’s intended to be cheaper than what’s available on the private market.

Gov. Ned Lamont, Comptroller Kevin Lembo and Demoractic legislative leaders on Thursday said they reached a deal that would lead to the roll-out of the “Connecticut Option,” a health insurance plan that will be designed by the Office of Health Strategy in conjunction with consumer advocates and healthcare policy experts.

They say the plan’s premiums could be up to 20 percent lower than private plans. Insurance companies will be able to offer the plan through their own provider networks or through a network developed by the comptroller’s office, officials said. The plan would also be sold on Connecticut’s insurance exchange. 

The deal includes additional financial assistance for lower-income residents, funded by a “responsibility fee” on residents who do not choose to purchase health insurance.

Congress gutted a similar federal tax penalty, starting this year.

Officials said the proposal also restores a reinsurance program meant to reduce premiums.

The state plans to petition the federal government to import prescription drugs from Canada, a move intended to lower pharmacy costs, and the proposal also places a tax on prescription opioids, which would help restore Medicaid coverage to several thousand people who lost it due to cut in last year’s state budget.

In addition, lawmakers intend to give greater authority to the Office of Health Strategy to monitor healthcare spending growth and recommend cost-lowering solutions. 

Insurers have railed against public-option proposals so far this year, and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association has also opposed the idea.

On Thursday, the Connecticut Association of Health Plans (CTAHP), which represents some of the state's largest insurers, again pushed back against the latest proposed government-run health insurance model.

“As the insurance capital of the world, we should be embracing the growth of the health plan jobs here,” said Susan Halpin, head of CTAHP. “If the aim is to reduce rates, we should be looking at all the cost drivers in our excellent but expensive health system."

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