Reforming health care in Connecticut in a way that enables more people to obtain quality, affordable care will not be accomplished through the two massive proposals approved in the House this week.

What is certain, however, is that HB-6582 and HB-6600 will increase the size and cost of state government and put taxpayers at greater risk.

HB-6582 opens the expensive state employee plan to small businesses and other groups (at an even higher cost to the new participants to pay for administrative and reserve costs). Expanding the pool does nothing to help people without health care coverage, nor does it offer anything more attractive to groups that can already purchase less expensive insurance in the existing private market.

The SustiNet bill (HB-6600), for its part, would take a misguided concept further. Though the bill’s purpose is supposedly to study the issue, the bill actually paves the way for those state health plans to be offered to everyone in Connecticut.

Lurking behind the feel-good rhetoric of both plans is the harsh reality that they would require the state to self-insure all of its public health plans. That would put Connecticut’s general fund and its taxpayers on the hook for at least hundreds of millions of dollars in reserves to cover the medical claims made under these plans.

Meanwhile, lawmakers are also still considering the adoption of nearly a dozen new or expanded health benefit mandates that would increase the cost of health insurance, especially for those who can least afford it – small businesses.

Connecticut doesn’t need unaffordable state-run health care schemes and more mandates; it needs real health care reform that will reduce cost, improve quality and thereby increase access. There are at least two concrete opportunities for meaningful health care reform that won’t further shatter Connecticut’s state budget.

Both proposals, now awaiting action in the Senate, are designed to help reduce the costs of health care and improve its quality:
* SB-782 — improves the state’s electronic medical record infrastructure in order to increase accuracy and prevent costly duplications.
* SB-678 — bolsters preventive care, chronic care and wellness programs in order to improve residents’ health and avoid overuse of the health care system.

Legislators often say that they want to help more people to afford quality health care. If that’s the case, they should waste no time in adopting SB-678 and SB-782, which will help achieve universal access to health insurance by reducing health care costs and improving its quality.