Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont speaks at a press conference at New Haven Health Department clinic on Friday. Clarice Silber /
Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont speaks at a press conference at the New Haven Health Department clinic on Friday. Clarice Silber /

New Haven — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy tag-teamed with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ned Lamont on Friday to paint the candidate’s Republican rival, Bob Stefanowski, as a Trump acolyte when it comes to health care policy.

Specifically, Murphy and Lamont accused Stefanowski of likely joining President Donald Trump in pushing for cheap, short-term health insurance plans and dismantling protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

The Democrats launched their criticisms during a joint press conference inside the New Haven Health Department clinic Friday morning, taking advantage of an opportunity to share a soapbox while they respectively campaign for Congress and the governorship.

Stefanowski’s campaign quickly dismissed the guilt-by-association criticism, saying the candidate is focused on improving the state’s economy, which will allow Connecticut to invest more in health care and education.

“The truth is that Bob Stefanowski opposes any efforts to remove coverage for pre-existing conditions,” said Kendall Marr, campaign spokesman for Stefanowski, in an email. “Bob would also only appoint an insurance commissioner whose chief concern is providing consumers with the best possible service.”

Murphy said there should be a partnership between the state’s federal delegation and Connecticut’s next governor to ensure residents are protected against “the worst of Trump’s health care agenda.”

“I don’t think that Donald Trump would have been so enthusiastic in his support for Bob Stefanowski if he didn’t have confidence that Stefanowski was going to help him in his health care sabotage campaign,” Murphy said. “If we don’t have a governor and a state legislature that is standing up to Trump’s health care sabotage campaign, consumers and patients are at risk in Connecticut.”

The Trump administration issued final rules in August allowing the sale of the short-term plans, which were promoted as a cheaper alternative to Affordable Care Act coverage and an expansion of insurance options. The limited duration plans do not need to cover pre-existing health conditions.

But the Connecticut Insurance Department quickly determined that state law prohibits the sale of those plans—with statutes in place baring exclusions for pre-existing conditions for any policy that has coverage of six months or longer.

Under state law, policies with coverage periods shorter than six months can exclude coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Lamont said he would fight for community health clinics and make sure that benefit packages stay intact. He argued Stefanowski would gut the state’s health care plan and likely cut those clinics.

Murphy emphasized the legislation passed in Connecticut helps protect  residents, but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“I do worry sometimes that voters in Connecticut just think that our health care protections will be there forever, and they won’t if you nominate a rubber stamp for Donald Trump as governor. Those protections will be gone,” Murphy said.

Clarice Silber was a General Assignment Reporter at CT Mirror. She formerly worked for The Associated Press in Phoenix as a legislative and general assignment reporter. In 2016, she conducted extensive interviews and research in Portuguese and Spanish for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative team at McClatchy, which was the only U.S. newspaper to gain initial access to the Panama Papers. She is a Rio de Janeiro native and graduated from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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