State lawmakers debate a ‘public option’ to help with rising healthcare costs


(WTNH) — State lawmakers on the Insurance Committee are debating a Democratic plan to create a public option: How to bend the cost curve of health insurance?

Democrats say their plan is affordable and will not mean tax increases, but Republicans challenge the idea of a government-run health insurance plan. They say it relies on taxpayers to bail the plan out if the numbers don’t work.

Alan Zinser, a small business owner from Woodbury, told lawmakers, “Business owners like me have to negotiate a fractured and inefficient market to acquire healthcare coverage.”

Small businesses, non-profits and unions would be able to go into the public option if approved by the legislature. But the divide along party lines is clear.

A Republican Plan includes:

  • Reinsurance Program
  • Canadian Prescription Drugs
  • Healthcare Cost Benchmarking

Republicans claim their plan will lower health insurance premiums up to 20 percent. They claim the Democratic plan will kill jobs, raise the cost of private insurance, force people onto Medicaid and put taxpayers on the hook if the government plan goes bankrupt.

State Rep. Cara Pavalok-Damato the Republican Ranking Member Insurance Committee told reporters, “The fact that the comptroller has the ability to reject applicants at the end of the day doesn’t make it a public option.”

Democratic lawmakers including the State Comptroller say their plan saves money and increases access. The Democratic Plan includes:

  • Government-Run Public Option
  • Expands CT Husky Medicaid
  • $50 M User Fees

Democrats say they will pay for their plan by collecting $50-million in user fees from the insurance industry. Democratic lawmakers claim the Republican plan is thin and doesn’t solve the problem of high costs.

State Senator Matt Lesser the Democratic Chair of the Insurance Committee remarked of the Republican plan, “It’s disappointing that yet again a lot of rhetoric and something very short on substance.”

The governor has said, “The reinsurance plan makes sense.”

And a user fee on insurance companies is worth a discussion. This debate is far from over.

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