Rep. Kerry Wood, co-chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee Credit: Courtesy of CT-N

It was being touted as a landmark compromise between the business community, healthcare advocates and the governor’s office, but a bill that would have given small businesses and nonprofits a new option to purchase health insurance failed to make it over the finish line. 

And that’s despite broad bipartisan support for the measure from both chambers. 

Rep. Kerry Wood, D-Rocky Hill, who had brokered the Association Health Plans compromise, said she did everything she could to address the dozens of misleading concerns lawmakers had about the proposal. 

“We wanted to make a plan that was unique in the country and something Connecticut could be proud of,” Wood said. 

She said it was a product that would have been regulated by the Department of Insurance and would have allowed small businesses to pool their employees to help lower the cost of health insurance. It even received the approval of Health Care Advocate Ted Doolittle, who testified against the original proposal. 

It’s unclear what happened, or how much Access Health CT, the state’s insurance exchange, had in officially killing the bill, but Kathy Tallarita, a former Democratic representative and government affairs and communications manager for Access Health CT sent out an email to all lawmakers on the last day of the legislative session urging them to vote against the proposal. 

The email sent at around 8:36 a.m. by Tallarita said: “Association Health Plans will also harm the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange/Access Health CT (AHCT) by decreasing the pool of premiums subject to the Exchange’s assessment, which is how the legislature establish (sic) the organization to fund its daily operations. The Exchange cannot assess Association Health Plans or large group premiums, thus cutting more than 48% of its funding availability. Access Health CT strongly urges against passage of this bill.”

Wood said there’s no way that’s accurate information because Access Health CT only insures around 2,400 people through its small business plans. 

Asked for comment on what prompted the last-minute email, Access Health CT sent a statement saying, “We consider it an important part of our role as the state’s health insurance marketplace to share information with state legislators regarding legislation before them and its impact on the residents of Connecticut.”

Wood partially blames herself for the defeat of the legislation.

“I need to do a better job of educating legislators about what’s happening in our insurance market and what we can and can’t regulate,” Wood said. “There is such a gap in understanding what we can do here in Connecticut.” 

Days after the session ended the Department of Insurance announced that the average small business health insurance plan was proposed to increase by 14.8% in 2024

While most residents in Connecticut have health insurance plans that are self-insured or regulated through the federal government, many with high-deductible plans, even if they have insurance through their company, are struggling to access care due to costs. 

“Healthcare costs are a major challenge for small businesses and we had a broadly negotiated solution that is a game changer for small employers,” CBIA President and CEO Chris DiPentima said. “Despite the negotiated agreement among all stakeholders, this bill was unfortunately compromised by a deliberate campaign of misinformation and falsehoods.”

Wood said she’s not giving up and will be working during the off-session to help lawmakers gain a better understanding of what the average family is up against when it comes to the cost of health insurance and the lack of options currently available to many. 

She said Association Health Plans work in 24 other states and it should work as another option here in Connecticut, too.