Requiring all residents to have health insurance should be part of a meaningful health care reform package for Connecticut, says an MIT expert asked by the HealthFirst Connecticut Authority to comment on a report the Authority released earlier this year.

Massachusetts has been able to reduce the number of its uninsured, says Dr. Jonathan Gruber, MIT professor of economics, because it adopted the individual-coverage mandate as a part of its reforms. It would be wise for Connecticut to follow suit, he strongly suggested.

Gruber was also asked to estimate the costs of some of the health care proposals made in the Authority's report, including proposals to significantly expand existing public health care programs as well as create new public programs, such as opening the state employee health insurance plan to individuals and small companies.

Those ideas would cost the state as much as $425 million in 2012 and could have a total 10-year cost of up to nearly $5 billion. Gruber also cautioned that there would be additional, indirect costs related to expanding the state employee pool because it likely would attract the least-healthy people from the individual insurance market, and that would ultimately increase health care costs.

Dr. Gruber added that if Connecticut adopted an individual mandate, the total number of the state’s uninsured would drop by almost 90%.

CBIA strongly supports meaningful and affordable health care reform. This kind of reform is possible if Connecticut adopts measures that improve quality of care and reduce its costs, thereby increasing access.