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Rep. Sean Scanlon (ctnewsjunkie photo)

HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut lawmakers are taking a hard look this year at government-sponsored public health insurance options.

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, declined to say Thursday exactly what the Democratic plan would look like on March 7, but it likely will target small business owners who don’t qualify for subsidies on the insurance exchange.

Scanlon made his remarks Thursday at CTNewsJunkie’s forum on a public option in the state Capitol’s Old Appropriations room.

Without subsidies, health insurance costs for individuals and families, who don’t receive subsidies because they are above 400 percent of the federal poverty level, can be more than $20,000 a year in many cases.

He said he thinks Connecticut can address the needs of some of these individuals by expanding the Connecticut Partnership Plan. The Connecticut Partnership Plan is the state employees plan managed by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo.

Currently municipal and local school board employees can buy into the Connecticut Partnership Plan, but there is legislation that would allow the 700,000 people employed by small businesses to also buy into the plan.

Scanlon wouldn’t offer more details about exactly what the public option would look like until next month.

Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-Shelton, doesn’t share the belief that a public option would help lower the cost of health care, but has proposed other bipartisan legislation to accomplish that goal in other ways.

Kelly believes a federal reinsurance program would help address some of the premium increases that individuals have experienced over the past few years. But he’s wary of a public option.

“We need to make sure we don’t destabilize the market,” Kelly said.

Scanlon said he doesn’t believe a public option will solve all of the issues around affordability, but does believe it will help.

Ellen Andrews of the CT Health Policy Project, former state Rep. Vickie Nardello, and Lynne Ide, director of program and policy at the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, joined Kelly and Scanlon on the panel.

Andrews and Ide both said that while they support the public option concept they didn’t think it would solve the affordability problem.

“If the public option isn’t going to be the solution to the affordability issue, affordability has to be addressed across the board in lots of different ways and we need to be much more aggressive about it at the state level,” Ide said.