For the past decade, towns, school boards and cities throughout the state have been able to provide their employees high-quality healthcare through the Connecticut Partnership Plan. Municipalities had the choice to buy in to the state employee healthcare plan, using its market power and established program to provide its workforce the world-class health and wellness programs they deserve at a predictable cost while saving employers money and helping them stabilize their insurance costs.
Over 140 groups, from small housing authorities to the state’s largest city, have chosen to join the plan which now covers almost 60,000 people. Membership continues to expand as more groups choose to join.
But the Partnership Plan is unjustly under attack.
Private insurance brokers have teamed up with high-ranking Connecticut legislators in an attempt to discredit and dismantle this successful program. They are making misleading and erroneous statements aimed at eliminating choices for towns and cities and hurting workers by forcing them into unreliable high-deductible healthcare plans.
Their motive is political. By attacking the Partnership Plan, they believe they will have greater success at sabotaging other efforts to leverage the state health plan to create more healthcare options. Beyond the cynical talking points, however, their message is simple: Maximizing corporate profits is more important than the health of teachers, first responders, and municipal workers.
The truth is, by any measure, the Partnership Plan has been a tremendous success. Many participating groups achieved significant savings by joining –savings shared by both the workers, employers, and municipalities. The state health plan is the largest in Connecticut and can use that strength to negotiate with an effectiveness that is impossible for small towns and local boards of education. By pooling together, municipalities are protected from the wildly fluctuating healthcare costs that plague smaller groups. Taxpayers are protected from rates skyrocketing for the whole population because the larger the pool, the smaller the risk.
The Partnership Plan has also been a game-changer for lower wage town and board of education workers, like paraeducators and custodians. Absent the Partnership option, many town-based employers opt for high deductible health plans. These plans save money by pushing costs on to workers in the form of high deductibles. For those lower wage workers, a high deductible plan basically equals no healthcare because enrollees, when forced to choose between buying groceries and paying for a recommended diagnostic test like an MRI, must choose to forgo the test in order to put food on the table. Alternatively, the Partnership plan saves money by encouraging enrollees to obtain preventative healthcare. There are no deductibles and consequently, workers get the healthcare they need for themselves and their families.
The Partnership Plan also saves money because there are no corporate CEO’s demanding eight-figure compensation packages or shareholders to placate. The premiums paid by towns and their workers largely pay for — get this — healthcare. Despite the baseless claims of its opponents, the plan has a stable long-term outlook, and has saved workers, municipalities, and employers hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While detractors of the plan would prefer to limit the conversation to the plan’s financials, it’s important to note that the point of a health plan is to keep its members healthy. By that metric, the Partnership Plan truly shines.
Its members have access to many of the innovations of the state plan including the Health Enhancement Program, a wellness and preventive care initiative that rewards workers for taking care of themselves and avoiding costly and dangerous complications. Those with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease receive help adhering to prescribed medications and access to nurses. To eliminate the Partnership Plan would be to abandon the pursuit of keeping our friends and neighbors in municipal service healthy and working on our behalf.
Playing politics with people’s healthcare is always wrong. Doing so as a pandemic rages across our state is unconscionable. The lawmakers so eager to threaten the health and wellbeing of our town workers and their families should think twice about the long-term financial and human impact of their actions.
Jody Barr, Jan Hochadel, Jeff Leake, Dave Glidden, Carl Chism and Mike Holmes are Board of Education (BOE) Union Coalition Leaders.