I served in the New York State Insurance Department during the financial meltdown of 2008. As bad as it was then, we all hoped that the damage would be primarily economic and that we would find a way to rebuild, as Americans had always done.
This time, I have the same hope that we will get through this crisis together and rebuild an economy that works for all of us, but my hope is tempered with sadness, since this time it’s not just our livelihoods but our very lives that are at stake.
This crisis is personal. I have a wife who started her own business a little more than two years ago. Its revenue was exploding, until at least half her clients were forced to close. I have a sister who is a cardiac intensive care nurse in the flagship location of a major hospital system in Manhattan and is now taking care of COVID-19 patients in critical condition. I have a 90-year-old mother who lives at home with me, whose daily activities are now limited by the need to avoid exposure to the virus. I have a daughter who calls us every day checking to make sure we’re still all right. This is personal indeed.
But challenging times make public service gratifying. I’m pleased to be a commissioner serving a governor who has shown foresight and fortitude during this period, demonstrating compassion as well as competence. At the start, the governor’s decisions were viewed by some as an overreaction, but since then many other states have followed his lead, proving the wisdom of his leadership. I am certain none of those decisions were easy, but they were the right things to do.
Leadership means taking action, and let me cite two examples that are of great importance to me as Insurance Commissioner. First, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7S, providing a 60-day grace period for insurance premium payments for those affected by COVID-19 for all lines and coverage regulated by the Insurance Department. We are the Insurance Capital of the world, we know the importance of insurance, we know our businesses and consumers need it, and we know that in this time of trouble, they need it more than ever.
For those affected by COVID-19, this Executive Order removes the worry of losing coverage for health, life, property, casualty, or anything else at the worst possible time. I know almost all companies already have been working toward the goals expressed in the order, and it provides a framework that gives clarity and consistency to all consumers.
Second, the Governor recently announced that Access Health will extend its Special Enrollment Period until April 17, so my friends in the gig economy, for example, can get coverage either through HUSKY or qualified health plans, with advance premium tax credits available to help reduce the cost for those who qualify.
Having that coverage could be lifesaving. Coronavirus deaths in Connecticut are expected to peak sometime around mid-April at 43 per day, with total deaths of 1,144 by August 4, according to the University of Washington’s April 1 update. That means we could have 173,000 cases of COVID-19 in Connecticut, based on recent research on infection rates in China. Most cases are mild, but those that are not can require expensive hospitalization, so the economic security of many families could depend on having health insurance coverage.
Preventing the sudden loss of insurance coverage and providing health insurance through Access Health are examples of state leadership working for the people of Connecticut in this time of crisis. Taking swift action to address real needs is what a responsive government should do.
If you have questions or concerns about any insurance issue, please reach out to us at the Connecticut Insurance Department. We have information available on our website at www.ct.gov/CID. Our email is [email protected], and our phone number is 860-297-3900. We are here to help.
There will be difficult times ahead, but armed with hope for a better day and the strength of each other we will get through this.
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Andrew N. Mais of Wilton is Commissioner of the Connecticut Insurance Department.