In his state-of-the-state address on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont acknowledged the affordability issues facing Connecticut residents – issues upon which Republicans campaigned last year.
They said his solution isn’t satisfactory.
“We have high healthcare costs and high energy costs and high housing costs, and the answer cannot always be more subsidies or bailouts,” Lamont said to a packed joint legislative session. “The taxpayers cannot afford it and too often the subsidy is an excuse for no structural reform.”
Republican lawmakers say Democrats have delayed those structural reforms for years.
“I think it’s an issue Democrats have been very negligent in over the last few years,” House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora said Wednesday. “We’ve allowed all this federal money to come in. This governor has heavily subsidized everybody’s health care.”
Candelora is referring to the billions in premium health insurance credits Connecticut has received from the federal government for plans purchased through the exchange, Access Health CT.
“They’re going to go away and we’re going to hit a cliff,” Candelora said.
Connecticut would have already hit that cliff if it hadn’t been for the Inflation Reduction Act that gave it three more years of subsidies.
“It is a little bit hypocritical to say you’re not going to receive these subsidies anymore,” Candelora said.
In his speech, Lamont challenged health insurance companies to stop passing the costs onto hospitals and pharmaceutical companies.
“Let’s reward patients and companies who seek treatment where they get the best quality and the best value,” Lamont said.
But the platitudes didn’t sit right with Republicans who have been pushing for a reinsurance waiver that would reduce premium costs by picking up the most costly patients.
Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said they need to continue to look at the reforms they need. Kelly has been unable to get his reinsurance proposal out of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee for years.
“Republicans clearly hear affordability,” Kelly said. “I’ve been pushing on this with regards to health insurance.”
He said Connecticut has to be affordable and right now it’s not.
Democratic lawmakers didn’t necessarily argue with that statement.
“We have to make a dent, there’s no question about it,” House Speaker Matt Ritter said. “It might take years. It might take continuous reform. The governor has the cost-containment committee which is going to be explaining increases and you know, I would just say at the end of the day we have the right people in the room looking at this issue.”
But Lamont didn’t just single out the health insurance industry. He also called out utility companies.
“Come on electric utilities, don’t tell me you are just passing along those high natural gas prices to the ratepayer and at the same time ask the taxpayers to subsidize it more,” Lamont said. “Let’s together get control over our energy supply chain so Putin and the Saudis can no longer control our destiny and our wallets.”
Lamont said they have made a start by expanding wind power and extending nuclear power another decade.
But as far as solutions, there are far fewer.
Kelly said everything needs to be on the table and he doesn’t exactly know whether that means re-regulating the electricity market is the best way to solve the problem.
“I just don’t think regulation is the end-all-be-all,” Kelly said.
Ritter said just like health care, energy is complicated, but he thinks he put the right people in place to deal with the situation.
Ritter moved Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, D-Westport, to chair the Energy and Technology Committee with Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex.
He said the two are talking about solutions.
“It’s a complicated answer. I know, no one likes to hear that,” Ritter said. “At the end of the day we have the right people in the room.”