Image of health insurance concept. (Designer 491 via Shutterstock)
(Designer 491 via Shutterstock) Credit: Designer 491 / Shutterstock

There is a health care crisis in the state of Connecticut. The global pandemic has brought to light the incredible inadequacies and unaffordability of our current health care system. 

There is only one bill before the legislature this session that would provide immediate relief and opportunity to small businesses, nonprofits, and Taft-Hartley union plans. Doctors For America of CT (DFA-CT) stands together in our strong support for the proposed legislation (SB 842) that would create public health care options in this state. The public option envisioned in the bill, and the other enhancements will bring Connecticut closer to achieving health care affordability and accessibility for its residents.

The bill faces its next challenge in the Finance, Revenue and Bonding committee. Before passing out of the Insurance and Real Estate committee last month, an amendment was added that would make new options less effective and significantly more expensive. We urge that the bill be amended to its original state, to restore the self-insured public option for a vote before the General Assembly.  Connecticut’s people deserve affordable, accessible, high-quality health care and the industry amendment it currently includes makes this impossible.

a green button that says support and red button that says oppose

Our DFA-CT members often tell stories of their patients’ lack of adequate health insurance, which consistently results in deferred medical care, unfilled prescriptions, and sometimes disastrous health consequences. Some have no coverage due to the exorbitant price of buying health insurance for individuals in the commercial marketplace. Others have what amounts to no insurance due to high deductibles. Many of these uninsured or underinsured persons are hard-working, full-time employees of small businesses or nonprofit organizations; entities that can’t negotiate affordable premiums because of their small size. People of color make up a disproportionate share of such workers. 

The public option will enable small businesses and nonprofit organizations to purchase good health insurance without high deductibles for their workers at affordable prices. This is possible by leveraging the State Employee Health Plan and its ability to negotiate favorable rates from providers while keeping administrative costs low. And, like the State Employee Health Plan, the new plans under the public option will also encourage preventive medicine, promote evidence-based practices, and reduce wasteful and sometimes harmful unnecessary services. 

Offering a public option as a choice to small businesses, nonprofits, and Taft Hartley plans will also have a beneficial effect by injecting much-needed competition into the employer-sponsored health insurance marketplace, slowing the rise in health care costs and making Connecticut a more attractive and affordable option for businesses and families. 

Medicare is an excellent example of how a public option (traditional Medicare) provides an opportunity and incentive for private commercial health insurance to compete in the market for seniors for health care through Medicare Advantage plans. The result is a range of options for high-quality, efficient, and affordable health insurance. It is not a coincidence that seniors are the one group of Americans who are genuinely happy with their health insurance. 

We reject the scare tactics and misinformation being spread by the bill’s opponents. A public option is a tool to offer better health care to Connecticut residents and help employers keep workers covered, not a takeout of the state’s insurance industry. The public health benefits alone would make it a worthy policy, but there will also be economic benefits for workers, employers and the private companies that work with the state health plan – including several large insurers.  

We also reject the legislative critics of the bill who lack the necessary urgency to counter this ongoing health care crisis. Other bills don’t go far enough to address the underlying problems, don’t other expanded options for small businesses and nonprofits, or don’t engender more competition or innovative approaches to control health care costs. 

As health care professionals, we strive to provide the best health care to our patients. We are angered and frustrated when lack of insurance undercuts our efforts and jeopardizes our patients’ health. Severe disease is an onerous burden for patients to bear, and compounding that with financial hardship is an unconscionable injury for society to add.

DFA-CT urges the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to do the right thing for the people of Connecticut and pass the public option. 

Dr. Stephen Smith is a physician based in New London and a member of Doctors for America’s CT chapter.

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