Representing more than 50,000 Connecticut businesses, area chambers of commerce held a State Capitol press conference this week to oppose efforts to open the expensive state employee health plan to small businesses and other groups.

The chamber executives criticized the plan (HB-6582) on the grounds that it would do nothing to reduce health care costs, improve quality or reduce the number of uninsured.

More than 85% of employers represented by the chambers--Bristol, Waterbury, East Hartford, Windham, Northwest Connecticut, New Haven, Middlesex, MetroHartford and Norwalk--are small businesses sensitive to cost concerns and struggling just to stay open in this recession.

Given that they are having a hard time trying to afford less expensive private-sector plans, it's unlikely that they could afford the state plan, which critics describe as "bloated."

Chamber leaders urged lawmakers to abandon efforts to open the state employee pool to small businesses. They asked legislators to focus instead on enacting genuine health care reform--addressing health care cost drivers in order to give more people access to quality health care.

The business community is becoming more united in its opposition to questionable health care "reform" and in its support for improvements to the existing employer-sponsored health care system.

Among the proposals that could help bring real reform are those that would:

  • Direct the use of federal stimulus dollars to increase health care access by raising Medicaid reimbursement rates (HB-6675)
  • Reduce health care costs and improve quality by developing Connecticut’s electronic medical records system ( SB-782)
  • Establish a health care cost-containment authority to analyze ways to reduce costs (SB-678)
  • Create a way to review all existing and proposed health benefit mandates to determine their costs and benefits (HB-5018)

Promote strategies for improving quality and reducing costs—such as care coordination, improved health status efforts, preventive care, data compilation and transparency (as contained in sections of HB-6600

Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize that real health care reform will tackle the very difficult issues of quality improvement and cost reduction. That's the way to ensure that more people gain access to health care insurance.