Health care proposals don’t go far enough

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The state of Connecticut is in an unfamiliar position, flush with money from budget surpluses and in a position to cut taxes. But despite that welcome change after years of deficit drama, the cost of living remains stubbornly high.

That’s unlikely to change. Much as detractors might think otherwise, Connecticut is expensive because its location is in demand. Property taxes are an issue, but more so are property values. Nothing is going to change that people want to live here, especially in the state’s southwestern corner.

The main drivers of the state’s high cost of living are familiar — housing, education and health care. It’s true that day-to-day expenses can add up, but it’s the big-ticket items that make it unsustainable for too many people. If you can’t afford your rent, you’re going to have to move.

State leadership has taken tentative steps on reducing housing costs, though much more is called for. The high cost of education is a continuing burden for many residents, and costs the state dearly when talented individuals are forced to choose something less expensive elsewhere. But there’s not a lot of leeway in terms of health care. It’s not something you can choose to go without, and it’s too often impossible to find a less expensive option.

A few proposals before the General Assembly are aimed at taking on those costs, but they do not go far enough.

Gov. Ned Lamont

is proposing a bill

that would take on out-of-network expenses, which anyone who has dealt with the health care system knows can be a nightmare, as well as prohibiting certain contracting practices by state health systems that can add to costs. He is also looking to reduce prescription drug costs.

At the same time, legislative Republicans, who are outnumbered in both houses of the General Assembly, are

looking to lower premiums

by adopting a state reinsurance program that would use state or federal dollars to reimburse health insurance companies for high-cost claims. With Democrats skeptical, the Republican plan appears unlikely to proceed.

What all the plans have in common, however, is their smallness. Lamont talked in unveiling his plan about how dire the situation is for so many people, and he’s right.

“I hear every day the system is broken,” Lamont said. “What we can do at the state level while we wait for the federal government and wait and wait for them to make sure that universal, affordable health care is a basic right for everybody.”

But as with housing, the governor’s actions do not match his rhetoric. His plans would make a difference in some respects, but don’t come close to matching the scope of the issue.

Just as the governor doesn’t want to offend the suburbs with his housing plans, he doesn’t want to offend insurance companies by taking a bold stance on health care. Everyone is aware of the sway those insurance companies hold in a city like Hartford, but at some point, the needs of the people outweigh the bottom lines of those companies.

Apparently, we haven’t yet reached that point.

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