Ctnewsjunkie file photo
Rep. Sean Scanlon, co-chairs an Insurance and Real Estate Committee hearing (Ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — With all the turmoil in Washington D.C., Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy opened the 2018 legislative session calling for legislators to preserve the basic elements of the Affordable Care Act, including the individual mandate. However, the Insurance and Real Estate Committee adjourned Tuesday without passing either of the two bills that called for those provisions.

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said they had a public hearing on the bill, so while they didn’t make it out of committee “the concept is still alive.”

He said he thinks there was broad support for it, but they just ran out of time. The session is scheduled to adjourn on May 9.

The individual mandate was created to expand the pool of uninsured individuals who would purchase individual insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act exchanges. The goal was to ensure that younger, healthier individuals would sign up and premiums would be kept affordable for everyone.

It hasn’t worked out that way.

Premiums have more than doubled from year to year and there isn’t as much competition between insurers as initially envisioned for the law.

However, even proponents of the ACA were hesitant to support an individual mandate at this point in time.

Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group, said they supported the individual mandate when there was the possibility of a public option. He said absent a public option the program hasn’t been able to expand.

“It’s a different ballgame,” Swan said. “If they have to buy something then there needs to be a standard offer.”

While they are often on opposite sides of the healthcare debate, Susan Halpin, a lobbyist for Connecticut Association of Health Plans, also expressed concerns about the legislation.

“The individual mandate is moving us toward having everyone insured, but if they can’t afford to be insured, its not going to prove fruitful in its intent,” Halpin told the committee earlier this month.

The Insurance Department testified that the individual mandate would only remain in effect if the federal tax credits remain in place and there’s a “low option benefit plan” offered on the exchange. “It is important that if people are required to have coverage that there are choices of more affordable plans that still provide a comprehensive set of benefits that include the essential health benefits and state mandates,” Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade said in her testimony.

Malloy’s legislation called for a $500 penalty or two percent of an individual’s adjusted gross income as a penalty for not purchasing health insurance.

Another bill proposed by the committee would have imposed a penalty of 4 to 9.66 percent of an individual’s income. The penalty would be capped at $10,000 and was based on a report by Fiona Scott Morton, an economics professor at the Yale School of Management.

If it passed, Connecticut would become the second state to have such a mandate. The first was Massachusetts, which passed an individual mandate for health insurance before the Affordable Care Act.

Seven other states and the District of Columbia are also considering individual mandates.

Leigh Appleby, a spokesman for Malloy, said Tuesday that the administration will continue to push for these commonsense proposals.

“The GOP tax law, which gave massive handouts to the wealthiest Americans, also repealed the individual mandate,” Appleby said. “This is projected to lead to 13 million people losing their health insurance and premiums to increase by more than 10 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Governor Malloy’s legislation fights back by preserving the most important aspects of the Affordable Care Act.”