A Senate bill that was supposed to help control the cost of health insurance premiums in the state should have passed with bipartisan support Tuesday. But Republicans said a Democratic amendment significantly changed the bill’s intent.The amended bill, SB-32, adds a requirement that the state Insurance Commissioner create a review committee to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of future healthcare mandates, and what impact those mandates may have on insurance premiums. The committee would then be asked to weigh the mandates against their impact on cost, so that workers have access to fair, flexible, and comprehensive coverage. Senate Minority Leader Louis DeLuca, R-Woodbury, said businesses need help now, and the problem is that the state already has handed down about 50 mandates to the insurance industry.“I don’t see how looking at future mandates will help lower the cost of insurance,” he said. Effectively, “you’ve just taken the guts out of the underlying bill,” DeLuca said of the amendment.
“How can you ignore the mandates we’ve already imposed?” Senate Minority Leader Pro Tempore John McKinney, R-Southport, added. “We’ve all been screaming about the cost of health insurance.“Sen. Cathy Cook, R-Mystic, said one of the towns in her district borders the state of Rhode Island, and until recently residents were covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island because the closest hospital was in Westerly. She said Rhode Island’s attorney general forced the residents to switch to a Connecticut insurance plan, which nearly doubled the cost of insurance for North Stonington residents. Cook said their premiums went up because Connecticut has more state insurance mandates than Rhode Island – about 50 to R.I.‘s 14.But the majority party prevailed and passed the amended bill with a 23 to 11 vote. Two members were absent. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives. Click here to read the bill and the amendment.