The business community is teaming up with farmers, grocery store owners, and small employers to oppose Democratic proposals to expand health care coverage for low-income residents.
Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Ned Lamont both proposed bills that include provisions to assess insurers $50 million in fees to give an additional subsidy to residents who fall around 200% of the federal poverty level.
The business owners say the assessment would be passed along to them through higher health insurance rates.
Lamont argues that since the federal government is getting rid of a special assessment on insurance companies, they can afford to pick up the cost and still save a few million dollars.
Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said Connecticut insurers can afford it.
“Connecticut insurers recently received a $300 million tax break when the federal health insurance tax sunset,” Scanlon said. “We are simply reconstituting a fraction of that tax – $50 million – at the state level as several other states have done to help make health care more affordable for the middle class. The idea that they need to raise anyone’s health care premiums to account for a tax they’ve already been paying for years and after getting a $250 million tax cut really doesn’t pass the smell test and it’s disappointing that they are trying to rile up the business community into thinking health care reform will hurt them when in actuality it will help them and their employees.”
But the business community disagrees.
“This tax, along with several other labor bills and fuel taxes, are just going to push people out of our state because they just can’t afford to live here,” Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said. “A lot of people have left, but brick-and-mortar retailers don’t have that option.”
Pesce said all the little things Connecticut does to increase the cost of living will have an impact on the cost of groceries.
“We are keenly aware of any cost increase to our farms and farm employees,” Joan Nichols, executive director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, said.
She said, “Every time we impose a tax on farm employers it stymies growth. It stymies the ability to add additional employees.”
Steve Fradianni, president of M&S Paving and Sealing, said there’s no incentive for them to expand and provide more jobs if the state is just going to continue to increase costs.
“I have to wonder how much more the lawmakers think we can take,” Fradianni said.
There are two bills that would increase the assessment on insurance companies. The first, SB 842, includes establishing a state-run health insurance program under Comptroller Kevin Lembo that is expected to benefit small businesses by creating more competition. The second is Lamont’s bill, HB 6447. The bill expands coverage for individuals by giving them additional premium subsidies to purchase their insurance through Access Health CT.
The bills have made it through committee and are awaiting action in the House and Senate.