HARTFORD, CT — When Dan Malloy was elected governor in 2010 the faith community had hoped he would implement a public insurance option, but the fiscal realities made it impossible.
The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care, a newly relaunched statewide clergy coalition cf Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, and other faiths, is hoping Gov. Ned Lamont might be able to overcome those fiscal hurdles and point Connecticut toward a more universal health care system.
The fellowship represents around 15,000 persons of faith and wants to see Lamont turn his health care platform into reality.
“We believe Governor-elect Lamont and his administration should make health care a priority,” Pastor Rodney Wade of Long Hill Bible Church said. “We are here today to call on the Governor-elect to not just talk about his platform on health care, but to begin the process of implementation.”
Wade, who is also president of the Concerned Black Clergy Council of Waterbury, said universal health care is “in fact a right” of all citizens.
During the campaign, Lamont said Connecticut deserves a leader “who supports national progress toward universal health care and who is focused on delivering tangible results from day one.”
On the campaign trail, Lamont wanted to broaden the risk pool in the individual marketplace and implement a reinsurance program, lower the cost of prescription drugs, and continue Medicaid expansion.
The legislature is likely to continue the debate this year over the size and scope of Connecticut’s Medicaid program. The legislature reduced the income limit for non-pregnant adults twice in the last three years, though it reversed the second cut in 2018.
The Rev. Tracy Johnson Russell, rector of Saint Monica’s Episcopal Church in Hartford, said “it is our collective hope that our prayers today will remind Governor-elect Lamont to remember his campaign commitment to ensuring that the health care system in the State of Connecticut is equitable, affordable and quality for all.”
She said they want Lamont and the legislature to “explore all options” that “make sense, are equitable, and affordable.”
Wade and Russell were part of a larger group of clergy standing outside the state Armory Wednesday hoping to make their case to Lamont and legislators.
Earlier this week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he planned to spend up to $100 million per year to expand health coverage to people without health insurance.
Lamont’s campaign proposals were not as bold mostly because he faces multi-billion dollar deficits and the uncertainty regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act.
Connecticut is better poised than most states to handle the impact of the Affordable Care Act being struck down by a court or repealed by Congress. The main concern has been about those with pre-existing medical conditions, who are guaranteed coverage under the ACA.
Connecticut’s health insurance law — Chapter 7, Section 38a-476, Pre-existing condition coverage — already states that “no individual health insurance plan or insurance arrangement shall impose a pre-existing conditions provision on any individual.”
However, any short-term insurance plan of less than six months can impose a pre-existing conditions provision, but it can’t eliminate the mandate on essential benefits, according to an Aug. 9, 2018, memo from former Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade.
The Connecticut law protecting pre-existing conditions was on the books before the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010.
But Connecticut’s laws only impact about 35 percent of fully insured plans in the state. The other 65 percent are regulated by the federal government under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.
In Connecticut, there are 2.21 million privately insured residents. Of those, about 1.85 million get their insurance from large group plans, 131,000 have individual plans, and 235,000 people are covered under small group plans. The Insurance Department doesn’t regulate the plans of 1.85 million people in the large group market, where the terms of employee benefits are set by employers. An employer hypothetically could opt not to cover pre-existing conditions if the repeal of the ACA is upheld.
So of those 2.21 million privately insured residents, the 366,000 with individual plans or who are covered under small group plans are protected from losing coverage for pre-existing conditions if the repeal of the ACA is upheld. And for those who get their insurance through their employer in large group plans, it would be up to their employer whether they want to continue offering coverage for pre-existing conditions, or even any insurance plans at all. Without the ACA, employers aren’t required to offer any health care benefits.