As president and CEO of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce, I have seen firsthand the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on Connecticut’s communities. Small businesses in New Britain, Berlin and Plainville – which comprise the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce – have been hit hard over the past year. In order to overcome this, our state’s lawmakers must focus their efforts on Connecticut’s economic and public health recovery.
That’s why our chamber and our members have come out in opposition to SB 842, legislation being considered to create a new, state-run government-controlled health insurance system in Connecticut, known as the “state government option.” While there certainly is room for improvement of Connecticut’s health care system, the state government option is the wrong path forward.
Rather than reducing costs, the bill would require Connecticut’s taxpayers and small business employers to finance the program – shifting the health care costs to the same people the plan claims to help.
Not only that, the state government option could drive up the costs of private health care plans, destabilizing the health insurance market throughout our state, and potentially drive private health insurance companies out of Connecticut’s market completely. Consumers would have fewer plans to choose from and could eventually be forced to enroll in the state government-run health system.
The state government option is also similar to State of Connecticut Partnership Plan, a state-run plan for Connecticut’s municipal employees that has experienced massive shortfalls and lacks appropriate oversight. As Connecticut taxpayers are already struggling with financial hardships, they do not need the added cost and burden of yet another state government health insurance system.
Connecticut’s economy is heavily interconnected with the health insurance industry, with companies like Aetna and Cigna headquartered in the state. The health insurance industry is a major provider of jobs and economic growth in the state. In fact, in 2019, a Connecticut Economic Research Center study concluded that Connecticut’s health insurance industry employed around 25,000 of the state’s residents, paying more than $5.2 billion in total wages every year. An additional 23,500 jobs in Connecticut are related to the health insurance industry.
According to the Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA), Connecticut lost more than 100,000 jobs in 2020. Overall, the state’s employment decreased by just over 6 percent. Enacting a state government option could eliminate jobs and inflict irreparable harm on Connecticut’s economy.
Connecticut policymakers should be focused on rebuilding and growing the economy, not on pushing through policies, like Senate Bill 842, that could cost Connecticut additional jobs.
William D. Moore is President and CEO of the Greater New Britain Chamber of Commerce.