HARTFORD, CT — There’s no public option for small businesses and there’s no more opioid tax, but the House was able to muster enough support for a bill that allows the state to seek a reinsurance waiver from the federal government to eliminate risk from large claims, and to also import drugs from Canada.
The House sent the bill to the Senate on a 112-28 vote.
Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk, voted against the bill but changed his mind seconds after the vote had closed. He said he gotten more information that made him more comfortable with the legislation.
“This is still a major healthcare reform bill,” Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said.
Tuesday’s vote follows the death last week of a bill that would have implemented a “Connecticut Option,” allowing state Comptroller Kevin Lembo to create and put out to bid a pool of individuals and small businesses to insurance carriers.
Lembo, who would have been in charge of the state-run pool, told the Hartford Courant that Cigna’s CEO David Cordani threatened to move his company out of the state if Connecticut moved forward with a public option.
A Cigna spokesman denied the allegation and Gov. Ned Lamont, who was helping negotiate the legislation, said if they were given more time they might have been able to reach a deal.
“He’s a Connecticut guy,” Lamont said last week of Cordani.
Scanlon claimed the legislation they were debating would still help lower the cost of healthcare for consumers.
“Healthcare is becoming unaffordable for the people of Connecticut,” and this bill begins to address it,” Scanlon said.
He said Connecticut could become the fourth state in the nation to get a federal waiver to import drugs from Canada. Those drugs are 35% to 55% lower in cost than drugs sold in the United States, he said.
Secondly, the legislation allows the state to apply for a 1332 reinsurance waiver. There are currently nine states with these types of waivers, which allow the federal government to cover the costs of some of the most expensive claims.
He said nine states have been granted reinsurance waivers and all have seen their healthcare costs drop as a result.
Scanlon said a report from Wakely recently found a reinsurance waiver could lower the cost of health insurance premiums for Connecticut residents by 5%.
The bill would also create a healthcare cost benchmark. He said the Office of Health Strategy would set a benchmark and anyone — such as hospitals, drug companies or manufacturers — would be required to explain why they didn’t reach the established benchmark.
“It’s one of the boldest attempts in this building in a long time to lower the cost of healthcare,” Scanlon said.
Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato, R-Bristol, said the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs is a topic of conversation among every lawmaker’s constituents, but she voted against the bill.
She said the Wakely report didn’t account for a fee Connecticut adds to insurance companies. She doesn’t believe the savings outlined by that report on a reinsurance waiver would actually come to fruition.
“That’s my problem with the bill. We’re raising premiums for some and lowering it for others,” Pavalock-D’Amato said.