Christine Stuart photo

Small business leaders, Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz, and Majority Leader Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, gathered at the Capitol Tuesday to urge Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell to sign legislation that lets nonprofits, municipalities and small businesses join the state health insurance pool.

The press conference comes on the heels of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield’s announcement that it would increase its rates by $24.2 million if Rell signed the legislation and expanded the number of individuals the state allowed into the pool.

Donovan questioned Anthem’s estimates saying he thinks the rates would drop if the number of individuals in the plan increases. He said what Anthem is saying is that “it’s their job to make money by selling insurance” and if they want to make money by covering more lives “we’re ready to negotiate.” He said if they’re not, then he suspects other health insurance companies will step forward.

John Hopper, CEO of Power Marketing Partners in Stamford, said he’s a Republican and small business owner who voted for Rell and wants her to sign the legislation.

Christine Stuart photo

Hopper’s company employs five full-time workers and 15 part-time workers. He said he buys the company’s health insurance through a payroll company in New York because purchasing insurance in Connecticut is significantly higher. He said for his family of five he pays $2,500 per month.

He said he was unable to obtain insurance through the Connecticut Business and Industry Association because it wouldn’t cover his employees if they had pre-existing conditions and the premiums were too high for his aging workforce. As it is now, his employees have a $50 co-pay to see a doctor. Hopper said if that cost were lower his employees may receive more preventative care and possibly avoid a catastrophic medical event that increases costs for everyone.

Eric George, of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said Mr. Hopper’s representation of the insurance plans CBIA sells was wrong, since Hopper’s company would be covered by small business reform laws, which don’t allow insurance companies to look at a company’s claims history.

George said the problem with this bill is that it can take into consideration a company’s claims history and it forces a company to be part of the plan for three years. He said many small businesses shop around for their insurance on an annual basis. “What happens if the rates go up in year two or year three?”

Bysiewicz said CBIA doesn’t like the legislation because it would cut into their sales of health insurance.

Insurance companies like Anthem have said expansion of the pool will increase the risk. “Our actuarial analysis assumes changes to the State claim base due to adversity in mix and utilization,” Anthem President David Fusco wrote in a May 16 letter to the state.

Donovan said he’s heard that healthy people will come in and sick people will come in, which is why the bill includes the creation of a committee to watch and access risk. “All evidence points to the state saving money by bringing people together,” he said.

Rell has said she is concerned the bill could create a $54 million hole in the state budget if the state had to renegotiate insurance rates with the state’s three insurance companies.

Bysiewicz said Rell does not have the bill yet. Once she receives it she will have 15 days to sign it or veto it.

Click here to read Monday’s story on this issue and here to read the insurance companies letters to the state.