People’s healthcare is on the ballot this November. And the vote is between broader and more affordable access on the one hand, and limited coverage and insurance company profits on the other.
That’s the way that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy framed this year’s state and federal elections during a Friday morning healthcare-related press conference held in the city health department’s ninth floor public health clinic at 54 Meadow St.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski responded on Friday afternoon by calling Lamont “desperate” and his “false accusations” and not “bound by facts or concerned with the truth.”
Standing before local politicians, healthcare providers, and residents with pre-existing conditions, Lamont and Murphy argued that a Democratic federal delegation, state governor, and state legislature will serve as a necessary bulwark against the Trump administration’s assault on funding and coverage requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
“We need a Congress that is going to provide a check on this president’s campaign of sabotage against the American healthcare system,” Murphy said. “But we also need governors and state legislatures that are going to provide a check against Trump’s sabotage campaign.”
Murphy, who is running for re-election this November, and Lamont continually bashed the reclusive Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob Stefanowski as someone who will aid the Trump administration’s efforts to invalidate current coverage requirements for people with pre-existing conditions.
They also said that the Republican candidate if elected in November would gut current state funding for healthcare costs by halving state revenues through the elimination of the state income tax, and that he would appoint an insurance commissioner who will be more sympathetic to the profits of the insurance industry than to protecting regular healthcare consumers from high insurance rates.
Stefanowski spokesperson Kendall Marr called Lamont’s and Murphy’s criticism of the Republican candidate disingenous.
“Bob Stefanowski is focused on improving Connecticut’s economy,” Marr wrote to the Independent via email, “which will allow us to invest more in critical areas like healthcare and education.
“Ned Lamont, on the other hand, after realizing his commitment to raise taxes across the board and continue the legacy of Dan Malloy was extremely unpopular with voters, is now resorting to lobbing false accusations at Stefanowski on a daily basis. The truth is that Bob Stefanowski opposes any efforts to remove coverage for pre-existing conditions. Bob would also only appoint an insurance commissioner whose chief concern is providing consumers with the best possible service.
“While Ned Lamont doesn’t seem to be bound by facts or concerned with the truth, we believe voters will ultimately see through this desperate strategy and vote for change on election day.”
An “Unrelenting Assault” On American Healthcare
“President Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on the American healthcare system,” Murphy said. “He is mad that the American public wouldn’t let Congress repeal the Affordable Caree Act and so he is taking it out on American healthcare consumers.”
The senator said that the president has been conducting that healthcare “sabotage” campaign by supporting legislation that would strip $800 billion out of Medicaid, by eliminating cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies, by repealing the ACA’s individual mandate, and by going to the courts in Texas to try to invalidate the ACA’s mandated protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
He said that the Connecticut state legislature, on the other hand, has passed two key bills that protect against Trump’s efforts: one that requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions even if the federal law is repealed, and one that requires insurance companies to provide a minimum set of benefits to cover mental illness, addiction, and prescription drug coverage.
“I don’t think that Donald Trump would have been so enthusiastic in his support for Bob Stefanowski,” Murphy said, “if he didn’t have confidence that Stefanowski was going to help him in his healthcare sabotage plan.”
Lamont said that, if elected governor, he would work with Murphy and the state legislature to try to both expand access to and hold down the high cost of healthcare.
He said he would support retaining contraception and pre-existing condition coverages in the state’s current minimum healthcare package requirements.
He said he is looking into a reinsurance program that would allow the state to use ACA funding not just for Medicaid expansion and tax credits, but also for covering parts of private insurance company’s higher claims which he said in turn could reduce statewide healthcare insurance premiums by up to 15 percent.
“If Bob Stefanowski decimates our budget, reducing 50 percent of our funding” by cutting the state income tax, Lamont said, “it would be disastrous and it would be very expensive for the state of Connecticut.”
Murphy and Lamont said that the governor also impacts healthcare prices in Connecticut based on who he or she chooses to head the state’s insurance department. On Thursday, state Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade reduced the average rate increases proposed by Anthem Health Plans and ConnectiCare from 12.3 percent to 2.72 percent for the year.
“Who the commissioner of insurance is in this state really matters,” Murphy said. “We have a department of insurance that has been helping to push back the big rate increases that have been requested by the big insurance companies. I am confident that Bob Stefanowski is not going to put somebody in the insurance department who is going to be looking out for consumers.”
Two Connecticut residents with pre-existing conditions then spoke about the importance that ACA-mandated coverage has played in their own lives.
“We never know when a healthcare calamity might strike us,” said 36-year-old Fairfield resident Vanessa Rose. Rose said she was diagnosed with lupus in 2008, had premature twins in 2016, and that the only reason she is able to afford healthcare coverage today is because of the ACA.
Zak Leavy, a 29-year-old New London resident, said he was diagnosed with severe rheumatoid arthritis when he was 20. His pre-existing condition, he said, has severely reduced his eyesight in one eye.
“Losing healthcare coverage,” he said, “losing coverage for pre-existing conditions, I would not be able to work. I would not be able to functionally live. And that is what’s at stake here.”
Click on the Facebook Live video below to watch the full press conference.