Compared with recent legislative sessions, in 2012 very few harmful healthcare bills were considered by the legislature, and lawmakers this year also advanced a few positive measures.

That was welcome news to Connecticut’s small employers who have faced ever-escalating healthcare costs.

Healthcare Data

One positive bill, HB 5038, establishes a repository database of healthcare data, including information related to claims, enrollment and eligibility, so that consumers can have access to comparative cost and quality measurements.

That’s a crucial help for informed decision-making in healthcare.

Pooling Proposal

The most notable failed healthcare bill this year—one that would have dramatically increased healthcare costs--was this year’s version of a pooling proposal.

Under HB 5487, the state employee health insurance plan would have expanded to outside groups, including small employers. This would have been problematic for many reasons.

First, since the state employee plan is self-insured, taxpayers would have had to shoulder the costs of all of the plan’s medical claims.

Second, self-insured plans will not be allowed to be sold through Connecticut's upcoming health insurance exchange. That means any success for the pooling proposal would have damaged the exchange.

HB 5487 also would have given the state comptroller wide latitude to cherry-pick the small group health insurance market by selecting the healthiest and lowest-cost groups.

This would have left the rest of the small employer health insurance market older, less healthy, and more expensive. Segmenting the market like that would have been poor public policy.

Fewer Mandates

Most of the healthcare bills that died either created new health insurance mandates or expanded existing ones. Mandates impact small employers more than others because they impact only the fully insured plans that small employers generally purchase.

This year was different for mandates because of a ruling late last year by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They said that states adopting new or expanded mandates after Dec. 31, 2011, would have to pay the difference related to those new or expanded mandates passed after that date.

With the state now on the hook for those costs, lawmakers balked at passing many new mandate measures. 

However, two proposals expand current mandates and will result in higher premiums. SB 97 prohibits copayments or other cost-sharing for breast cancer screening services and SB 98 prohibits deductibles for colonoscopy services, which carries the same cost-shifting affect.