We can tackle health insurance costs

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Seriously tackling public policy issues takes patience. In the case of battling soaring health insurance costs in Connecticut, it takes extreme patience, laser-like focus, single-minded dedication and loving care, just like what is required of a surgeon. performing brain surgery on a baby in utero.

We expect surgeons to perform miracles in the operating room. Surgeons do this often. Serious politicians can too.

The high cost of living in Connecticut is an ongoing problem. This year, our state fell to 39th in CNBC’s annual Best States for Business rankings, earning two “F” grades for our state’s economy and cost of living, and a “D” grade for the business cost.

Health insurance companies’ recent demand for an average price increase of 20.4% for individual health plans next year and an average increase of 14.8% for small group plans sold on and off the exchange Connecticut’s Affordable Care Act has given residents a heartbeat, painfully reminding us that our health care costs are also among the highest in the nation.

Twelve years after it took effect, the continued rate hikes are also a stunning rebuke to the promise of the Affordable Care Act itself.

Real people in Connecticut — independent contractors with families, small business owners trying to do their best for their under 50 employees, and many people — can’t sleep at night right now because they have stomach ache on how to pay for health insurance.

What can a serious politician do? Immediately stop hurting.

Politicians need a Hippocratic oath.

With 68 mandatory health plan benefits and services, Connecticut is among the most demanding in the nation when it comes to insurance claims that offer on- and off-state health plans for individuals and small groups that represent about 30% of the health insurance market in Connecticut. . It is the only part of the market that state politicians can control.

The remaining 70% of the market are individuals and families who get their health insurance from the big companies they work for like Sikorsky or Pratt & Whitney; these health plans are regulated by federal law and cannot be affected by state mandates.

Each of these mandates has helped increase health insurance premiums for the entrepreneur, small business owner and individual. The Connecticut Business & Industry Association estimates that through plan year 2019, each enrollee will pay an additional $2,085.48 in premiums due to these 68 benefit warrants.

Another important cost factor is the contributions imposed on insurance companies. Among the assessments are the costs of operating the state health exchange itself, which cost $32 million in 2021. That $32 million billed to insurers and passed on to the contractor, owner small business and registrants via higher premiums.

Moreover, these mandates are passed by the legislature without cost-benefit analysis. For example, in 2022, SB358 (a bill to expand existing breast cancer screening) and HB5386 (a bill to price epi-pens at $25) passed without a report from the Program. Health Benefits Review – a report that would have answered basic questions about what portion of the population would use the benefit, how widely those benefits were already available, and how much those mandates would cost individuals, insurers, and employers.

And the Health Benefits Review Program report could have indicated that price fixing by politicians or bureaucrats on any product, especially a vital medical device like an epi-pen, would create price distortions and shortages in this very area. Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson will tell you that government price controls are a bad idea.

Insurers are leaving the Connecticut market. Harvard Pilgrim withdraws its small group plans, affecting 12,000 enrollees in January 2023. Connecticare, a health insurance company started 40 years ago by a group of doctors, suffered more than $65 million in losses for 2022 on the individual market.

State officials have tried to innovate, but without serious commitment the effort is wasted, as evidenced by the plan to tap into the University of Connecticut to develop a health information network for the state, which resulted in the loss of approximately $20 million while unceremoniously. canceled earlier this month.

Connecticut politicians should look in the mirror when they ask who is driving up health insurance costs in our state.

Once we get past their self-examination, we can move on to the visionary work of reforming the healthcare system to provide plenty of choice, high quality, and low costs. We need transparent pricing, payment reform, and value-based health care that aligns health and fiscal outcomes, rather than fee-for-service health care that incentivizes more testing and Services.

We get the government we deserve. If we want serious politicians, we must be serious citizens. Seriously informed and committed. There is no easy way. We need to roll up our sleeves and patiently, one step at a time, demand better laws and better processes.

Tackling big public policy challenges takes patience, focus, dedication and care, but it’s not brain surgery. We box thrive in Connecticut.

On August 11, I hosted a town hall via Zoom as part of my summer public policy series titled, “Why is health care so expensive in Connecticut and what can we do about it? ” A recording of the conversation is available on my legislative website, www.repfiorello.com.

State Rep. Kimberly Fiorello’s 149th District includes parts of Greenwich and Stamford.

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