Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo
State Comptroller Kevin Lembo at last week’s press conference (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 8:48 p.m.) The “Connecticut Option,” which would have allowed state Comptroller Kevin Lembo to create and put out to bid a pool of individuals and small businesses to insurance carriers, is officially dead for 2019.

State Comptroller Kevin Lembo told the Courant that Cigna’s CEO David Cordani threatened to leave Connecticut if the legislation was approved.

A spokesman for Cigna denied any such threat.

“The only option this proposal gives to the public is to pay more to get less from the health care system,” Brian Henry, a Cigna spokesman, said.“This option does not work for the public, for the state, or for the private sector. This is yet another option no one in Connecticut can afford, and in fact threatens the long term viability and vitality of the state.  Bottom line: The proposal as designed is ill-conceived and simply will not work.”

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, and Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said the Connecticut Option is no longer part of the legislation.

Lesser said Cigna has raised concerns about the legislation and has been part of the negotiations, which were happening last night and over the weekend.

“I remain committed to the Connecticut Option but understand that for legislation of this magnitude to be successful, the proposal must leverage the best thinking from all stakeholders, including the carriers,” Lamont said in a statement. “Cigna is a vital piece of Connecticut’s fabric, and I am committed to working collaboratively and constructively with carriers, stakeholders, and advocates, and I encourage other elected officials to respectfully do the same.”

This year, Cigna has no Connecticut customers in the individual market and none in the small group market, so it’s confusing to advocates how the company could have so much power in these negotiations.

“Let’s not underestimate the power of any insurer in the state of Connecticut,” said Lynne Ide, director of program and policy for the Universal Healthcare Foundation. “They are ideologically opposed to anything that moves us toward a public option.”

Cigna is one of the only insurers domiciled in Connecticut.

The Connecticut Option bill was already watered down from its original version, which would have allowed small businesses to join the state employees health insurance pool of 190,000 people. Under the version announced at a news conference last week, the bill would have required health insurance companies bidding for an unknown group of businesses and individuals — in a new pool managed by Lembo’s office — to lower premiums by 20%.

Scanlon said last week that the plans offered to individuals and businesses through the new pool would come “with a guaranteed reduction in costs.”

The premiums in 2022, which was the first year the plans would have been offered, would have been 20% lower than the average premiums for individuals and small group plans offered on the exchange in 2020, rates for which are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

If the insurance companies offering plans through the new “Connecticut Option” failed to meet that benchmark, then the General Assembly would have had the option to come back and decide to create a true government-run public option.

On Wednesday, Lesser maintained that there are still broad areas of agreement in the legislation even though its been stripped of the Connecticut Option.

Lesser said there’s support for the importation of Canadian drugs, the opioid tax, and the health cost containment committee.

Scanlon said the bill, which is expected to run in the next day or two, would also still require Connecticut to apply for a reinsurance waiver from the federal government to help reduce the costs of the program and provide additional backing against high-cost claims.

Ide said she understands that every lawmaker needs to consider business interests in the state,  but “why should the interest of insurers be taken more seriously than the interest of 500,000 people who work for small businesses?”

“It’s baffling,” Ide added.


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