Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Vanessa Rose, right, was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008. Zak Leavy, left, is a member of AFSCME Council 4 who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

NEW HAVEN, CT — Connecticut has passed a number of laws recently that mandate health insurance sold in the Nutmeg state must actually provide coverage for consumers.

Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved and Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation that says insurance companies must cover pre-existing conditions if the Affordable Care Act is overturned by the courts or Congress eliminates it. The bill passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. It passed the House 114-32 and the Senate 34-2. Sens. John Kissel and Joe Markley were the only votes against it.

Markley is Stefanowski’s running mate. However, a spokesman for Stefanowski’s campaign said no one should read anything into that.

Stefanowski “opposes any efforts to remove coverage for pre-existing conditions,” Kendall Marr, Stefanowski’s spokesman, said.

“Bob Stefanowski is focused on improving Connecticut’s economy, which will allow us to invest more in critical areas like healthcare and education,” Marr added.

During a debate Wednesday, Stefanowski criticized Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont for talking about federal policies under the control of Congress and President Donald Trump. He said he’s focused on what happens in Connecticut.

Lamont said Friday that this is an example of how “what happens in Washington directly impacts our lives every day.”

“As I travel around the state non-stop folks with pre-existing conditions are terrified,” Lamont said. “They’ve got a daughter diagnosed with autism. They’ve got a husband who’s diabetic and what is going to happen to their health care if Donald Trump and Bob Stefanowski say, ‘Hey, insurance you don’t have to provide it anymore’.”

Vanessa Rose, who was diagnosed with Lupus in 2008, said it’s not one of her favorite things to talk about.

“Without getting too philosophical we never know when a healthcare calamity might strike us or someone in our family,” Rose said. “So it really doesn’t make any sense to me that anybody wouldn’t want these protections for all of our citizens.”

Before Friday, Stefanowski had said little about healthcare policy.

There’s no information on Stefanowski’s website regarding health care policy even though it accounted for about $3.6 billion of the state’s $19.7 billion in spending in 2017.

Connecticut was the first state in 2010 under former Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell to implement Medicaid expansion, a program that helps residents with incomes under 138 percent of the federal poverty level to receive health care.

Earlier this year, Markley, as co-chairman of the Human Services Committee, helped raise legislation that would require Connecticut to apply for a waiver and impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients.

The bill never made it out of committee, but there was a passionate debate about the issue.

There are 800,000 Medicaid recipients in Connecticut, but 72 percent of them would not be impacted by a Medicaid work waiver because they are children under 19, adults over 65, persons with disabilities, or employed.

Lamont said he doesn’t support work requirements.

“Here’s somebody that deserves coverage [and] can’t afford coverage — we’re going to provide coverage for you,” he added.

Lamont said that aside from using the negotiating power of the state to drive down the cost of pharmaceuticals he would look at taking advantage of a federal reinsurance program similar to Alaska’s.

Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy in New Haven Friday (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

In Alaska, the federal government approved a waiver that allowed the state to pool their claims among a larger group of payers and spread out the cost of the sickest patients. The new pool is financed in part by an assessment across a broader group of insurers, including those in the group market.

Access Health CT, Connecticut’s insurance exchange, has debated applying for a reinsurance waiver, but would need legislative approval to move forward. A handful of states have been granted a similar reinsurance waiver, while others have abandoned the process.

Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade just approved an average 2.7 percent increase in premiums for about 109,000 customers who buy their plans in the individual market both on and off the exchange. The average of the rate increases requested was 12.3 percent and aside from reduced those requests to an average increase of 2.7 percent, she also mandated that premiums for some specific plans be reduced.

The rate hikes that Wade agreed to were “reasonable,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said.

He also said it demonstrates that “who the Commissioner of Insurance is in this state really matters.”

“I am confident that Bob Stefanowski is not going to put someone in the Insurance Department who is going to be looking out for consumers, like the person Ned would select,” Murphy said.

Marr countered that “Bob would also only appoint an insurance commissioner whose chief concern is providing consumers with the best possible service.”

Murphy said, “I think President is Trump is so enthusiastic about Bob Stefanowski’s candidacy because he knows that Bob Stefanowski is going to help him unwind protections for people with pre-existing conditions, help him be able to sell more of these junk plans.”

Wade recently released guidance in August that says Connecticut already has regulations that prohibit the sale of so-called “junk plans.”

That’s because Connecticut law requires “any short-term limited-duration plan to offer the ACA’s essential health benefits for policies sold in the individual market,” and “any renewable short-term limited-duration health plan and any short-term limited-duration health plan longer than six months cannot exclude pre-existing conditions.”

“While Ned Lamont doesn’t seem to be bound by facts or concerned with the truth, we believe voters will ultimately see through this desperate strategy and vote for change on election day,” Marr said.