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The Insurance and Real Estate Committee acted today to weaken a bill that would have lowered health insurance premiums for Connecticut consumers purchasing insurance through Access Health CT.
According to a September report from the Department of Health and Human Services, health insurance purchased through Access Health CT have the fourth highest premiums in the country.
Senate Bill 11, as originally written, would direct Connecticut's Health Care Exchange, Access Health CT, to negotiate premiums with insurers on behalf of consumers. Access Health CT had the option to decide to do this on their own, but voted unanimously not to in November 2012.
Just as big businesses negotiate with insurers, using the bargaining power of their employees to push for lower premiums, so too should Access Health CT act in the best interests of enrollees by negotiating for better choices and lower costs. Negotiating preimiums also safeguards taxpayer dollars. The Affordable Care Act provides federal tax credits for Americans whose income could make it difficult to afford health insurance. The tax credits are delivered through the exchange, and their cost are pegged to prices on the exchange. As a result, negotiating for lower premiums not only delivers savings to enrollees, but also create savings for all taxpayers.
The Insurance and Real Estate Committee amended the bill to make negotiating premiums optional, and to delay any negotiations for a year. But the exchange already has the ability to negotiate premiums, and chose not to! By delaying implementation of this watered down bill, the committee's action actually removes Access Health CT's now-existing ability to negotiate premiums for a year.
The amendment is bad for Connecticut consumers and taxpayers. If the bill moves on in the legislative process, ConnPIRG will be encouraging legislators to undo the damage done by the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.
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