Get the Facts on Health Care Pooling: A Potential Win-Win for Town Taxpayers and Employees

by Lynne Ide 

winwin2Is Connecticut misguided in its quest to open opportunities for municipalities to purchase health coverage through the state?

The answer is yes–if you listen to vested interests such as the Connecticut Association of Health Plans.

The answer is no–if you believe that municipal leaders owe it to local taxpayers, as well as town and board of education employees, to explore all options.

A key feature of Senate Bill 913 would require that municipalities directly submit health care claims data to the Office of the State Comptroller on an annual basis.

Comptroller Kevin Lembo explained how this would help towns in his February 26 testimony. “…this legislation would alleviate a burden on municipalities interested in exploring participation in the CT Partnership Plan.  This would expedite the process of building a quote for how much cities and towns can potentially save on health care costs, while providing comprehensive benefits to their employees.”

Connecticut passed legislation a few years ago that enabled non-state, public employers to purchase health plans through the state.  The CT Partnership Plan offers health plan options on par with the health coverage enjoyed by state employees and provides rate stability, lower administrative costs and lower prescription drug costs.

In my free time I hold elected office in my hometown.  I can speak from experience as chair of the town Board of Finance–there are municipalities that have NOT done their due diligence when shopping for quality health coverage for their employees.

If a town can provide its employees with quality coverage and save money, that will help stretch local taxpayer dollars to cover other needs–such as education, expanding a library or decreasing the mill rate.

What would keep a municipality from exploring this option?

There could be several reasons, including lack of knowledge, aversion to change, local union contracts, etc.  In my town, it was a combination of things–but the worst was misinformation from the town’s insurance broker and the broker’s unwillingness to even inquire about the CT Partnership Plan as an option.

I was a local official who knew about the state option, and in the end, I circumvented our broker and requested a quote directly from the Comptroller’s office.  This allowed my town to weigh another possible option before we made our final health plan choice.

If towns are not doing their due diligence, I say let’s just give them quotes based on data reported annually to the Comptroller’s office, as proposed in SB 913.  Some quotes may lower costs for the town and some may not. Either way, the town officials will have more complete information to enable them to make health plan purchasing decisions.

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