Governor Lamont, Comptroller Lembo, and Legislative Leaders Announce Major Health Care Improvements to Lower Costs for Families, Nonprofits, and Small Businesses: The Connecticut Option
New Health Care Plans Will Deliver Savings of 20 Percent Below Current Average Market Premium Costs
(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont, Comptroller Kevin Lembo, and legislative leaders, particularly the co-chairs of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, Senator Matt Lesser and Representative Sean Scanlon, announced today they have reached consensus on a proposal that will provide Connecticut residents more affordable, high-quality health care.
Under a new “Connecticut Option,” individuals and small businesses will have the choice of buying a new high-quality, high-value health care plan that could save them up to 20 percent in premiums. Consumer advocates and health care policy experts will assist the Office of Health Strategy (OHS) in designing the Connecticut Option, which insurance companies will be able to offer through their own provider networks or through a network developed by the Office of the State Comptroller. Offered alongside current high-quality plans on the exchange, Connecticut Option plans will leverage our incredible public agencies and one of the state’s leading industries to provide innovative alternatives tailor-made for our residents and employers.
The proposal also takes several steps to lower costs in the individual market. It provides additional financial assistance to low-income residents who qualify for federal subsidies and more middle-class residents who currently struggle with the high cost of health insurance. That assistance will be funded by restoring the responsibility fee on residents who can afford but choose not to purchase health insurance. The proposal also restores the reinsurance program that reduced premiums in the early years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Similar programs in other states have reduced premiums by more than 10 percent. Finally, it increases competition in the market by requiring insurance companies that serve state employees to also provide cost-effective plans through the exchange.
In addition to improving the individual and small group markets, the proposal is designed to bring better care at a lower cost to all Connecticut residents by empowering the OHS to monitor health care spending growth, establish an annual cost growth benchmark, and recommend data-driven solutions to lower costs. That transparency and accountability will help curb price increases across health care providers, insurance carriers, pharmacy benefit managers, and drug and medical device manufacturers.
Under the proposal, Connecticut will join Vermont, Florida, and Colorado in petitioning the federal government for permission for the state to safely import prescription drugs from Canada at greatly reduced prices, upon federal approval.
Lastly, the proposal places a small tax on the prescription opioids that have fueled our current public health crisis. The revenue collected from that tax will help restore Medicaid coverage to several thousand of the parents who lost access to that vital program under the state’s last budget.
“As a small business owner, I personally know how costly it can be to find a high quality and affordable health plan for your employees,” Governor Lamont said. “As an entrepreneur, one of the keys to my company’s success was providing my employees the health care they and their families needed to thrive. Health insurance was a significant expense for my business, but providing it attracted talented colleagues, kept them and their loved ones healthy – and was just the right thing to do. No one should die or go bankrupt simply because they have the misfortune to get sick when they can’t afford to seek treatment – especially not in Connecticut, where we have some of the finest doctors and hospitals in the world. Providing quality, affordable care is also core to Connecticut’s values and critical to economic growth. That’s the same vision I have for Connecticut: create the conditions for families and businesses to succeed by bringing public and private actors together to deliver quality health care that families and small businesses can afford.”
“Connecticut small businesses and individuals are tired of paying for nothing – for high-deductible plans where they often never see even $1 of benefit,” Comptroller Lembo said. “Our businesses, our workforce and our families deserve more, beginning with a health care system driven strictly by the value of care and not the highest prices the market is willing to bear. I am grateful to Governor Lamont and our legislative leaders for coming to the table and working in collaboration to ultimately achieve the best solution possible.”
“This health care reform is a great step towards ensuring Connecticut residents have access to quality, affordable healthcare,” Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney said. “Far too many people cannot afford to purchase a health insurance plan or their necessary prescription drugs. This is unacceptable. Having access to insurance and life-saving medications should not be a luxury available only to those who can afford it. I fully support this plan and I’m thankful for the investment of time and creativity that Governor Lamont, Comptroller Lembo, Senator Lesser, and Representative Scanlon have devoted to this comprehensive legislation.”
“Improving access to quality, affordable healthcare for Connecticut residents is an ongoing priority for Democrats because we see healthcare as a right for people not a privilege,” Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz said. “More affordable healthcare for Connecticut businesses and families is the goal, and this legislation will help drive real change in the health insurance market.”
“Connecticut is blazing a bright path towards major healthcare reform – one that other states are sure to follow,” Senator Lesser said. “We’re showing that states can lead – we don’t have to wait for Washington. This is perhaps the most important set of healthcare reforms in America since the Affordable Care Act. We are going to the mat for seniors struggling with the cost of prescription drugs and for families and small businesses facing rising premiums and sky-high deductibles. I am proud to stand with Governor Lamont, Comptroller Lembo and Representative Scanlon and grateful for the support of Senator Looney and Senator Duff.”
“The people of Connecticut desperately need and deserve relief when it comes to the high cost of health care and prescription drugs,” Representative Scanlon said. “This landmark health care reform bill will lead to major cost savings for consumers throughout our state by offering a new ‘Connecticut Option’ for health insurance, lowering drug prices by importing cheap drugs from Canada and providing the middle class with subsidies to help them afford insurance. It’s time for a bold strategy to lower costs and I’m proud to be working alongside Senator Lesser, Comptroller Lembo, and Governor Lamont to get this done on behalf of the people of our state.”
“Americans pay the highest prescription drug prices in the world and it’s time to join states like Florida and Colorado which have said ‘enough is enough,’” Connecticut AARP State Director Nora Duncan said. “AARP supports state legislation that creates a state wholesale importation program to purchase lower-cost drugs from Canada and make them available to state residents through an existing supply chain, with clear and appropriate safeguards in place.”