Connecticut Public Radio

One of the oldest organizations of its kind in the country, Community Partners in Action (CPA) was founded nearly 150 years ago and champions criminal justice reform and advocates for preserving human dignity. Our programs include reentry and housing, youth initiatives, a nationally recognized Prison Arts Program, and holistic alternatives to incarceration, providing long-term impact that positively transforms individuals and society at large. Annually serving nearly 6,000 individuals and our communities throughout Connecticut, our work is possible due to partnerships with and support from government, private funders, organizations and business.

Beth Hines

While a nonprofit, we must also operate as a sound business; we pay salaries, manage properties, and provide benefits to our employees. One of our biggest challenges is the skyrocketing cost of health insurance.

Over the last five years, CPA has experienced a 42% increase in medical insurance premiums while plan deductibles also increased. The deductible for our High Deductible Health Plan increased from $1,500 to $2,500 for an individual and from $2,500 to $5,000 for a family.

The Point of Service (POS) Plan added a deductible of $1,000 per individual and $2,000 for a family.

Over these same five years, staff compensation increased on average by 4%. CPA is absorbing the majority of these costs and therefore unable to increase staff salaries to cover the added expense passed onto them.  As a result, staff have less take-home pay.

Health insurance premium increases have brought some of our staff to tears.

CPA is a nonprofit providing vital services to the community. The majority of our staff are motivated by passion and mission, not wages.  Many of our staff work second jobs to make ends meet. Some salaries are not a living wage; $15 an hour is not a living wage for someone with a family. For these families, an increase in insurance costs means going without somewhere else in the family budget.

Health Savings Accounts are all well and good, but you are taking from your paycheck. It makes sense and we encourage people to do that, but really the whole system is unsustainable.

During Covid, we had to figure out how to serve people in residential and other settings. Our staff worked incredibly hard serving our clients, some getting sick themselves. We kept our centers open as long as possible, met clients in parking lots, got them cell phones so we could stay connected when they had to relocate to hotels to be safe, set up Zoom capability for remote meetings. I am always proud of our staff, but never more so than during this pandemic.

Our state had the chance last year to pass a Public Option health insurance program, which would have included non-profits in the purchasing pool that comprises state and many municipal employees. I can’t even tell you what a relief that would be for CPA and our work. It would be a complete game changer.  We could pay all staff a living wage.  This would allow them to focus on their work and clients rather than how they will cover rent. Our staff would be healthier, because they would be able to go to the doctor when sick rather than worrying about their co-pay.

We have given insurance companies the chance to show us how they could innovate and lower the cost of health care. We will continue supporting a Public Option, to give our staff, and thousands of other small businesses and non-profits, relief from this broken system.  I strongly urge our legislators to advocate for the Public Option.  It is time for a change.

By Beth Hines is Executive Director of Community Partners in Action.