Christine Stuart photo

After more than four hours of debate Wednesday night a bill that allows municipal employees, small businesses, and nonprofits join the state employees health insurance plan passed the House on a largely party-line vote.

The overall bill passed 102-43, but an amendment which included the main provisions of the bill passed with only one Democrat, Rep. Linda Schofield of Simsbury, voting against it. The bill now heads to the Senate.

“This makes the few hairs I have left on my head hurt,” Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said in the middle of the debate Wednesday. He said he’s concerned that if certain people come into the insurance pool they may drive up costs.

Cafero said the insurance companies that administer the state employee plan are telling the state this bill changes the negotiated rates and “we can’t guarantee our price because the risk may change,” if more people are allowed to join the pool.

Rep. Melissa Olson, D-Norwich, said the four companies don’t have to accept any new people if they don’t want to. She said the insurance companies will be motivated to add people to the pool because “we know they’re earning money, so it must be working for them.” The way insurance companies make money is by adding more lives to the pool, she said. She said she can’t imagine that the companies would walk away from new business.

Office of Policy and Management Secretary Robert Genuario said in a letter to legislative leaders that the four companies administering the state program would have to re-rate their bids immediately if the bill passed, leaving a potential $54 million hole in the state budget.

Click here to read our earlier story from Wednesday.