While tolls, bonding and the budget have dominated this legislative session, a battle has been quietly brewing over the creation of a state-administered health insurance public option for small businesses. That fight is about to burst into the open as the session heads into its final weeks. It pits GOP lawmakers and some of the state’s most powerful lobbies—big insurers based in and around Hartford and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA)—against state Comptroller Kevin Lembo, Democrats who control the General Assembly, and patient advocates. Backers say their legislation would provide small businesses with a desperately needed alternative to increasingly unaffordable commercial plans, while injecting greater competition to force down prices. Opponents counter that a public option would harm the state’s insurance industry, potentially leading to job losses.
Although Gov. Ned Lamont said nothing about health care policy in his inaugural speech to the General Assembly, it’s likely to be a major theme of at least his early months in office. Why? Depending on how it’s calculated, health care makes up 25 to 30 percent of the state budget, according to the Office of the State Comptroller. Lamont will have to balance the need to save money with the desire of many inside and outside the General Assembly to expand and improve health care coverage and lower costs for consumers. “There’s almost two levels,” said Patricia Baker, president and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation, which focuses on assuring health equity and access to affordable care for all.
Have you met Connecticut’s ALICEs? Chances are, you have. ALICE could be the man who counts change for you in the drive-through, or the woman who drives your child’s bus to school. Recently, Connecticut’s United Ways released a report on the state’s ALICEs – or Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed residents. The report included some stark numbers, including this one: Thirty-five percent of Connecticut workers – or 474,445 households – cannot afford basics such as food, transportation, health care and housing.
Debbie Hardy, a home health care aide, is the reason that Frank Geraldino, 48, a paraplegic, is able to live in his Seymour apartment – rather than in a nursing facility. Hardy, of Ansonia, is an independent worker providing in-home personal care services, such as bathing and feeding, for people with serious disability. Medicaid covers the bill, but the patients are technically the employers, hiring and scheduling their own in-home care. More than 6,000 personal care workers are listed on various registries as providing in-home care services. The lists include home health aides, who are trained and licensed as certified nursing assistants, and personal care assistants, who are not licensed.