Disregarding how the rising cost of health care is making insurance coverage unaffordable for more people in Connecticut, the House this week approved nine new health insurance coverage mandates that will drive costs even higher.

With eight wrapped together into one proposal (HB-5021) and another separately approved (SB-301), the mandates require insurance companies to cover more special medical treatments and procedures. These will be added to the over 60 mandated special coverages already in effect in Connecticut—among the highest and costliest totals in the U.S.

Strong dissent
However, strong opposition was expressed during the debate, with dissenting legisaltors taking these proposals and their supporters to task. Led by a passionate and focused Republican caucus, as well as a handful of moderate Democrats, these dissenting lawmakers pointed out the high costs of these measures.

Debate centered on how the proposals would raise costs for most health care consumers at the absolute worst time. Lawmakers noted at great length that each one of these “feel-good” mandates will add to the already high cost of health insurance. And they said how unfortunate it is that more of their colleagues don’t have a clear understanding of that fact.

Simply put, the state legislature is deliberately increasing the cost of health coverage for most state residents with each mandate that they pass.

Costs too much
Ask nearly any small employer in Connecticut about their employees’ health insurance and you are bound to hear, “it costs too much.” This should not be news to the legislature.
One of the often-expressed frustrations for small (and not so small) companies in the area of business costs is health care. Costs have risen so much that many employers have either been forced to increase their employees’ share of the insurance cost or drop health insurance benefits altogether.

In these lean economic times, when the survival of businesses is in doubt, tacking on nine more health insurance mandates will only make matters worse.

Mandates increase the cost of health care for the companies that can least afford it—small businesses. That’s because the mandates affect companies that purchase “fully insured” group insurance products that are regulated by the state. And those state regulations require the insurance coverage purchased by small businesses to include the entire mountain of government-mandated coverages.

Many larger employers are able to bear the risk and cost of paying their employees’ medical claims directly. Because they are “self-insured,” they are not bound by these mandates. Most small companies don’t have this option, however.

As passed, HB-5021 requires coverage for such things as wigs for people who can’t grow hair, certain hearing aids, prosthetics and ostomy supplies, as well as other services. And while each of these services helps someone, everyone buying a state-regulated group health insurance policy will have to pay for it.

While lawmakers continue to talk about the plight of Connecticut’s small businesses struggling to pay for their employees’ health care, they continually fail to do anything constructive about it. Far from good policy, this illustrates the growing disconnect between many of Connecticut’s lawmakers and the realities of the economy.