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By Joseph De Avila
Legislation to create a public health-insurance option in Connecticut is off the table after an outcry from private insurers.
State Sen. Matt Lesser, a Democrat who led the proposal, said other components of the health-care legislation might still move forward this year, including seeking permission from the federal government to buy prescription drugs from Canada and looking for ways to contain costs in the state's health-care system.
Mr. Lesser said insurance carriers raised several complaints about the portion of the bill that would have created a public health-insurance option, and that Cigna Corp., based in Bloomfield, Conn., was particularly unhappy with it.
"I heard sharply worded concerns" from Cigna, Mr. Lesser said. He added, "We are taking a step back and evaluating where things stand."
Mr. Lesser said many of the complaints from the insurance industry revolved around displeasure with competing with the government for customers.
The legislation would have allowed individuals and small businesses to purchase health insurance through the state and aimed to cut premium costs 20% by 2022, compared with the cost in 2020. The Democratic leaders in the legislature along with Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont all backed the proposal.
A spokesman for Cigna said the public-option legislation was ill-conceived and wouldn't work.
"This is yet another option no one in Connecticut can afford, and in fact threatens the long-term viability and vitality of the state," the Cigna spokesman said.
The spokesman denied a report that Cigna threatened to move its Bloomfield headquarters out of state if the legislation advanced. An article in the Hartford Courant earlier on Wednesday quoted Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo, a Democrat, as saying the company had threatened to move.
Mr. Lembo didn't respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Lamont said in a written statement that he remains committed to signing legislation that would create a public option in Connecticut.
But, he said he understands "that for legislation of this magnitude to be successful, the proposal must leverage the best thinking from all stakeholders, including the carriers." He added, "Cigna is a vital piece of Connecticut's fabric, and I am committed to working collaboratively and constructively with carriers, stakeholders and advocates."
Mr. Lesser's proposal also called for re-establishing the individual mandate -- a centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act that required people to have health insurance or pay a penalty -- that has since been eliminated at the federal level by Congress.
The Connecticut chapter of AARP also supported the bill.
The state of Washington approved similar legislation earlier this month to become the first state to introduce a public option. Other states considering a public option or a similar concept include Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires
May 29, 2019 19:30 ET (23:30 GMT)
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