With its reporting deadline looming, the legislature's Insurance and Real Estate Committee approved 35 bills during a marathon March 22 meeting.
HB 6447, Gov. Ned Lamont's healthcare proposal, was among the bills passed, although it was amended by the committee.
Committee co-chair Sen. Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) introduced the amendment, which requires the Office of Health Strategy to submit a report to the committee—with approval required within 30 days—prior to the development of any programs related to the Lamont administration's proposed Covered Connecticut plan.
That plan is a key component of the bill, and levies $50 million in annual assessments on health insurance carriers to fund additional premium subsidies on the state-run healthcare exchange and possible targeted expansions of the state Medicaid program.
The assessments are modeled on the controversial federal Health Insurance Tax, which Congress repealed in 2019—that repeal effective this year—because it drove up healthcare costs for millions of American families and small businesses.
Lesser introduced the amendment because of what he called a lack of legislative accountability in the underlying bill, which essentially allowed OHS to develop a plan to disburse funds raised through the assessment with great autonomy.
HB 6447 passed the committee with bipartisan support after the amendment was adopted.
CBIA's Wyatt Bosworth told an earlier committee hearing that the business community opposed HB 6447 "due to the financial burden that will be placed on the large group and individual markets by this assessment."
Bosworth noted that recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act made such assessments duplicative, as Congress allocated $42 billion to fix the subsidy loophole that currently exists under the Affordable Care Act.
"The act includes the biggest reforms to American health insurance since the passage of the ACA in 2010," Bosworth said. "The ARA achieves the same objective as the governor’s bill, but without inflicting an additional financial burden on health insurance carriers and consumers.
"We also urge the committee to pass a reinsurance program that relies on state funds, in lieu of new assessments, so we can begin to stabilize the individual and small group markets, and bring much needed relief to Connecticut residents."
The committee, which has a March 25 reporting deadline, also passed a number of bills imposing additional health benefit mandates on regulated insurance plans in the state and raise the cost of insurance premiums for consumers.
Bosworth earlier told committee members that Connecticut residents annually pay an additional $2,085 in premium
costs because of the 68 health benefit mandates that are codified in the state’s statutes.
"These increases are especially detrimental to small employers (defined as under 50 fulltime employees), who are not required to offer health insurance pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, but choose to do so," he said.
"CBIA broadly opposes any healthcare mandate bills without a complete cost-benefit analysis being conducted prior to passage. Health benefit mandates pose an enormous cost to all Connecticut residents."
The mandate bills approved by the committee include:
- HB 6626: requires health insurance coverage for motorized wheelchairs, medical foods for individuals diagnosed with phenylketonuria, and cochlear implants.
- SB 1007: requires coverage for the treatment of severe obesity.
- HB 6587: requires coverage for epinephrine cartridge injectors.
Mandate Review, Telehealth
The committee also passed a HB 5013, which requires any future health benefit mandates to either (1) be subject to a mandate review and informational hearing; or (2) pass with two-thirds approval of the Insurance Committee.
CBIA supports this bill as it installs an extra layer of protection that ensures a thorough cost-benefit analysis is conducted or overwhelming bipartisan support is attained before future mandates are adopted.
"Our members appreciate the importance of healthcare coverage and the role it plays in supporting a healthy
workforce," Bosworth said. "But for some health benefit mandates, the cost outweighs the benefit being realized."
The committee also approved SB 1022, which makes permanent the telehealth provisions of Public Act 20-2, which passed the General Assembly in July 2020.
Earlier this month, Gov. Lamont signed an executive order extending insurance coverage of telehealth services to April 20, 2021.
SB 1022 permanently mandates that fully insured and Medicaid plans (1) offer telehealth coverage by in-network providers; (2) cover both visual and audio and audio only services; (3) reimburse providers at the same rate as in-person services; and (4) include licensed social workers and clinical social workers as eligible providers.