In March of last year, Sen. Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, talked about the need for a public option.

Everyone wants the same thing when it comes to healthcare: lower costs, higher quality, and better access to care. Given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever for Connecticut to be well-equipped with a strong, resilient healthcare system that can meet the growing needs of vulnerable patients across the state.

For that reason, I support efforts to improve Connecticut’s healthcare, provided the solutions are rooted in what is practical and have been formulated with the participation of both political parties. After all, healthcare is not and should not be a partisan issue.

Pushing through highly partisan proposals is not how our lawmakers should be governing, particularly when it comes to something as important as healthcare. If we are going to truly address the needs of all Connecticut residents, then we will need thoughtful policies crafted by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Not only does this proposed new government-controlled health insurance system fail in that regard, but it would end up costing hardworking Connecticut residents, families, and small businesses more in the way of higher taxes while failing to improve healthcare overall. Now is the worst possible time for lawmakers to experiment with unproven systems that could destabilize local healthcare providers while increasing costs and putting our economy at risk.

Proponents of SB 842 claim that a state government-run health care system would provide a “cost-effective, stable alternative” to private and employer-sponsored plans.  Unfortunately, they are also adding a tax on the existing small businesses to pay for this expansion.  A large massive government takeover of healthcare  will rarely provide “cost effective” solutions and, if history teaches us anything, it’s that government healthcare programs administered by our state or others are anything but that.

Look no further that the State Comptroller’s stewardship of the Connecticut Municipal Partnership plan.  That plan lost $31.9 million in 2019, tripling its losses from the previous year.

Connecticut taxpayers were the backstop to subsidize those losses, and I’m fearful that if SB 842 becomes law then we will have even bigger losses and taxpayer funded bailouts.  If there is any risk fund created under SB 842, small businesses who opt-in to the plan will also have to be the backstop in the future.

As a small-business owner, I am particularly concerned with how the cost of such a massive government program will be paid for. Healthcare is already one of the highest costs for small businesses like mine, and the state government-run health care system proposed under SB 842 would only add to those costs. Given the economic uncertainty the pandemic has caused, small businesses are already struggling as it is without piling on new costs and higher taxes.

And make no mistake, we will all see our taxes go up in order to finance such a bloated, government-controlled system.  I do not believe a state government-run health care approach will benefit hardworking, middle-class folks like me.

As much as I support strengthening and improving healthcare, I do not believe SB 842 is the way to do that. Instead of trying to force Connecticut residents into a new, government-controlled healthcare system, lawmakers should focus on improving our existing one by building on what’s working and continuing to address lowering costs, not raising taxes.  And they should do so in a bipartisan way without increasing costs or raising taxes for anyone. That’s the kind of healthcare reform most of us want to see.

Michael J. Licamele lives in Newtown.

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