HARTFORD, CT — The Senate thought it took a major step early Friday morning by unanimously passing legislation to protect women from any action the federal government might take in rolling back insurance coverage for certain women’s preventative services.
But Gov. Dannel P. Malloy tossed cold water on a Republican amendment that would have allow expectant mothers to enroll in a plan in the individual insurance market 30 days after the pregnancy is confirmed by a licensed health care provider. Malloy said it turned good legislation into bad legislation.
“Yet again, the state Senate turned a deaf ear on the insurance industry and completely disregarded informed input on this topic,” Malloy said later Friday.
Pregnant women are not currently allowed to purchase a plan in the individual market either on or off the exchange outside the open enrollment period. An insurance industry lobbyist said it’s unknown how many women may get pregnant outside the open enrollment period, but it would definitely increase premiums for everyone.
“By amending Senate Bill 586 — which is a laudable bill and one that I support — with a brand new mandate, the end result will mean higher premiums for customers both on and off the exchange. In short, they took a good bill and essentially sank it,” Malloy said.
Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Stratford, co-chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee where the bill originated, said the pregnancy amendment was needed.
“It provides the promise of the Affordable Care Act — basically access to health care for pregnant women for their unborn child,” Kelly said Friday afternoon outside the Senate chamber.
He said there’s no fiscal note so there’s no cost to the state, but will “ensure women in Connecticut who do not have insurance have the opportunity when they do become pregnant to have a special enrollment.” He said women who have complicated pregnancies are 10 times the costs of women who have healthy pregnancies.
“This is a way that if people get the proper prenatal care and have a healthy childbirth — we’re going to reduce the actual insurance costs,” Kelly said.
Malloy’s critical comments about the Senate vote came two days after Aetna announced it is actively looking to move its headquarters away from its current Hartford location, which it has called home for the last 164 years.
“It’s a shame for Connecticut consumers, and it’s an inexcusable action by policymakers who continue to disregard the perspective of major employers in the state,” Malloy said. “This lack of awareness and blatant disdain for the insurance industry’s expertise and concern for their customers is infuriating and needs to stop.”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he’s “perplexed” by the governor’s remarks.
“Since he’s always attacked Republicans as anti-women, the point of this bill is to protect pregnant women,” Fasano said. “So I don’t know where he’s coming from.”
Malloy said his objection is rooted in the fact that it will increase insurance premiums.
“For my part, let me be absolutely clear — it will be very difficult for me to sign my name onto a bill that will raise insurance premiums without first enacting my proposal calling for a comprehensive insurance mandate review,” Malloy said.
Fasano said Malloy never expressed his objections to the legislation before Friday.
Kelly said it’s hard for the industry to say it will increase premiums when it doesn’t know what the costs will be. He said the number of women who would fall into this category is small.
Health insurance companies have already filed their insurance rates for 2018 to the Insurance Department for review.
Sarah Yeager, a spokeswoman for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Connecticut, said they are “heartened by the governor’s continued recognition of the importance of being fiscally prudent and balanced to avoid adding additional costs to what employers and consumers already pay for health insurance. We hope we can all work together to retain the portions of the bill that we all agreed to.”
The bill, which passed 36-0 in the Senate, now moves to the House.
“This legislation will ensure that regardless of what happens in Washington, women’s health care will continue to be protected in our state,” Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said. “It is imperative that we put the health care of Connecticut residents first, and I am so pleased that this bill had strong, bipartisan support.”
The underlying bill continues preventative services for women that are currently covered under the Affordable Care.
It would make sure things like well-visits, access to contraception, breast cancer screenings, osteoporosis screenings, screenings for sexually transmitted diseases, breastfeeding counseling and supplies, and gestational diabetes screenings for pregnant women don’t have co-pays or count toward a deductible.
Kelly termed the legislation a “movement to fix the promise of what the Affordable Care Act intended.”
“We have the best and the brightest when it comes to insurance in our state,” Kelly said, adding that Connecticut has a chance with this legislation to become a “national model” for other states to follow.
Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney, D-New Haven, and Fasano both praised the bipartisan support the bill received.
Looney said the legislation was vitally important considering the “move to slash” insurance benefits underway in Washington.
While he did vote in favor of the bill, Sen. Len Suzio, R-Meriden, said he was concerned about older people being forced to pay for the cost of contraception “when they are beyond child bearing age.”
Flexer responded that “everyone is paying for a piece of this” legislation, noting that breast cancer patients are mostly older women, and most osteoporosis patients are older.
And while he voted in favor of the bill also, Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, said he was concerned that insurance companies may have to ask for already approved rate hikes to be adjusted to comply if the legislation eventually becomes law.
The legislation does not mandate maternity coverages and does not apply to any state-run or municipal run health plans.