A Closer Look at Three Health Care Reform Proposals

03.13.2009
Issues & Policies

Connecticut’s health care reform playing field is becoming clearer as committee deadlines approach and several legislative proposals emerge as potential vehicles of reform.

While there is strong, positive consensus around many measures, others are much more controversial—including proposals to increase state government’s control and administration of health care. That’s an alarming prospect, given the state’s poor record in managing its current health care responsibilities, not to mention the state’s fiscal crisis.

Here’s a look at three proposals:
The Connecticut Health Care Partnership (HB-6582)
Promoted vigorously by House Democratic leadership, HB-6582 would open the very expensive state employee plan to certain groups, including small employers. Unfortunately, the plan is so expensive it does not provide relief to employers. What’s more, it eliminates protections that currently exist for small employers by allowing the plan to operate outside of Connecticut’s protective health insurance rules and regulations.

That means that any small businesses and its employees going into the plan would lose the protection of Connecticut’s small group health insurance rating laws, which stabilized a previously volatile small group marketplace and protected employees who suffer from chronic conditions and poor health.

The bill also directs the state to self-insure all of Connecticut’s public health insurance plans (including this new system) — which would put state taxpayers on the hook to pay all health claims made under the plans.

Taxpayers must beware: The state is already a poor manager of its health care costs, with some state employee health plans costing more than $24,000 a year. The state also hasn’t set aside enough funds to pay for its retirees’ health care costs, resulting in an unfunded liability for these benefits of more than $24 billion.

HB-6582 has the right aim —seeking to increase access to health care — but its mechanics are flawed because it builds off an unaffordable system and depends on the state to carry more responsibility for health care, an area in which it hasn’t shown much success.

SustiNet (HB-6600)
There is much to like and much to be concerned about in HB-6600. On the plus side, it seeks to reduce costs, improve quality and increase access.
Its positive measures focus on improving care coordination through medical homes, increasing efficiencies through health information technology, reducing costs through the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and improving quality through a focus on preventive care, data compilation, transparency and technology.

HB-6600 also correctly directs the state to increase its Medicaid reimbursement rates to reduce the debilitating cost shift from the public sector to the private sector and encourage more doctors to participate in public programs.

However, like HB-6582, this bill gives the state much more health care decision-making and management authority. And under HB 6600, the state-run program would be much more expansive—eventually including all companies and individuals.

Beyond the similar problems with HB-6582, CBIA is very concerned that HB-6600 will be a significant push toward a fully government-run health care system in Connecticut. Given the state’s poor track record, that would be devastating to the vitality of the state’s health care system, Connecticut’s health insurance industry and the economy.

CBIA is hopeful that lawmakers see the flaws in these proposals and instead move forward on positive health care reforms that strengthen the employer-sponsored system, increase access, reduce costs and improve quality.

Healthy Steps (HB-5172)
This positive measure addresses the core reason people and businesses don’t have health coverage—its skyrocketing cost. The proposal attempts to reduce these costs by allowing for the sale of reduced-mandate plans and seeks to review all existing and proposed mandates to determine their costs. What’s more, the proposal affords certain companies tax credits for the cost of the health care they offer their employees.

CBIA encourages lawmakers to move forward with the positive reform measures contained in HB-5172 and HB-6600 in order to improve our ailing health care system.

   

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