2019 press conference when Kevin Lembo and Gov. Ned Lamont were supporting a public option.

Reminiscent of the battle for a public option in 2019, five insurance industry CEOs wrote a letter Thursday to Gov. Ned Lamont warning him that a state-run insurance plan could drive business out of the state. 

“The pandemic has demonstrated that employees can work virtually, making it easier for companies to choose where they are domiciled and grow,” the five executives wrote. “As a result, it has never been more critical for the State to create a climate that retains and attracts businesses that will help stabilize the economy. All of us will have to decide where it will be best to deploy our resources long term. Private employers and taxpayers should not fund unsustainable public policy pursuits.”

The letter was signed by Gail Boudreaux, president and CEO of Anthem, David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna, Karen Lynch, president and CEO of CVS Health, Dirk McMahon, president and COO of UnitedHealth Group, and Thomas Croswell, CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Tufts Health Plan. 

Not all the companies above directly offer any health insurance plans in the small group market that would be impacted by the public option proposal.  The industry argues it’s more nuanced than this.

Lamont has not said publicly whether he would support a state-run health insurance plan. He backed off any support for a similar plan in 2019 after allegations by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo that Cigna would consider leaving the state if it passed. The company continues to deny any threat was ever made. 

“The wishes of five multi-millionaires don’t outweigh the needs of the other residents of Connecticut, the overwhelming majority of whom know health care is not affordable and want their government to do something about it,” Lembo said Thursday. “I’m grateful that the industry is finally publicly stating the threats they’ve been making behind closed doors to lawmakers for years. It makes this choice stark: are legislators going to serve their constituents or do five corporations determine what becomes law in our state? I have faith that they will make the right decision and help bring about the change our constituents are demanding.”

Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, said he’s disappointed at the repeat performance by the insurance industry.

“Here we go again. I’m disappointed that the insurers are once again using veiled threats to try and scare people into thinking this bill in dangerous when in actuality it’s not,” Scanlon said.

He said they keep saying it’s a government take over when “they themselves will administer and sell the plan.”

Sen. Matt Lesser, co-chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said he hopes they can find a way forward. 

“Polls show the overwhelming majority of Connecticut residents want health reform,”” he said. The industry has an important role to play in ensuring that Connecticut residents have access to affordable health insurance – particularly right now in the middle of a pandemic.”

Lesser says he’s “hopeful that at the end of the day industry CEOs will choose to join with us as partners in that effort.”