Connecticut’s health care system needs to be improved. Rising costs are pushing health care beyond affordability. The quality of health care is sometimes subpar. Access to health care is still elusive for some. Obviously, simply talking about these problems will not solve them. Something needs to be done.

But one of the worst economic downturns in memory has hit Connecticut families, businesses, and state government. Employers are trying to stay competitive and hang on to jobs, and policymakers are nervously watching the state’s budget deficit grow each day.

So, should the cause of health care reform be postponed? No—but it must be done in a way that will truly reduce costs, improve quality, and increase access to health care.

Unfortunately, one of the leading health care reform proposals this year does none of that. HB-6582 opens the expensive state employee purchasing pool to small businesses and other groups, but it:

  • Won’t reduce costs
  • Won’t improve quality
  • Won’t help insure more people in Connecticut.
  • Will saddle Connecticut with more financial liability

There’s a lot to be concerned about in HB-6582. It would open the state’s flawed and costly health care plan to other groups, but would deny them the consumer protections built into Connecticut’s health insurance laws and rules.

The bill also moves the state into the self-insured arena, thereby requiring the state to pay all of the health claims made under its plans (including the new system under HB-6582).

Proponents say that under HB-6582, the state would not have to pay health insurance premiums anymore. What they are not saying is that Connecticut would have to build up huge financial reserves to pay the medical claims under a self-insured system.

Surprisingly, the proposal’s fiscal note says nothing about how much would be needed to pay the new system’s claims. Worse, the proposal itself doesn’t even require the state to set aside reserves to pay the inevitable claims. This is extremely alarming, because the last thing the state and its taxpayers need are more unfunded liabilities

The implications of HB-6582 for the state budget are very disturbing. Connecticut already has more than $22 billion in unfunded state retiree health care liabilities. The idea of opening the door to new medical claims should worry all state taxpayers since their tax dollars will be on the line to pay these claims, not any insurance company’s.

As the second half of the 2009 session takes shape, CBIA urges lawmakers to reject the significantly flawed HB-6582 and instead move forward with real health care reform efforts that lower costs, support better care, and allow more of us to purchase health care coverage. In these harsh economic times, it’s critical that we realize real health care reform, not dig ourselves into a deeper fiscal hole.