Although the future of healthcare policy at the federal level is uncertain, state lawmakers can take steps now to protect Connecticut’s small businesses from rising costs.
Specifically, they can address two major areas of concern to small employers: mandates and fees.
Mandates are the procedures and services the state requires smaller employers to offer in their health insurance plans.
The more procedures and services there are, the costlier the plan.
It’s probably no surprise to Connecticut’s small employers that we rank among the states with the highest number of health benefit mandates.
Many healthcare bills have aspects that appeal to state lawmakers’ emotions, and they often find it difficult to vote against these proposals.
Impact of Mandates
With healthcare costs continuing to rise each year, we must address the cost drivers that are within the state’s control.
For example, last year lawmakers approved—with overwhelming bipartisan support—a mandate that will cost $20 million over the next two fiscal years.
Small businesses simply cannot be expected to bear these costs and grow jobs at the same time.
Helping employees pay for health insurance is a top priority for employers. Addressing costs should be a top priority for lawmakers.
This will give lawmakers the information they need to make an informed decision.
The General Assembly's Insurance and Real Estate Committee recently voted unanimously to draft SB 544, which will set up a new approval procedure for assessments from the state's exchange–Access Health CT.
Currently, Access Health charges an assessment that is passed on to the entire small group and individual marketplace—regardless of whether they use the state's exchange—throughout Connecticut in the form of higher premiums.
The current assessment is set at 1.65% of premium. This equates to about $275 a year for a family of four.
The concern is that Access Health's board of directors has the power, through state statute, to increase the assessment with a simple vote of its board. No other oversight is required.
Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman leads the board, which is comprised of private citizens.
SB 544 requires the board to come before an elected body—such as the legislature’s Insurance Committee—for approval of any increase before it can be adopted.
The revised approval process incorporates important checks and balances.
Since helping their employees pay for quality health insurance is a top priority for employers, addressing what drives healthcare costs should be a top priority for lawmakers.