Connecticut is “the Nutmeg State,” not because Connecticut Yankees raised nutmegs,…it’s the seed of a tropical tree…but because of the legendary skill of the state’s Yankee Peddlers to sell to the unwary buyer wooden nutmegs that yielded splinters rather than spice.
That nickname goes back 240 years, but for the past 100 or more, Connecticut has also been known as “The Insurance State”, after one of its biggest businesses, and once again official state policy seems to be to embrace sharp business practice — our corporations, drunk or sober.
One of Connecticut’s biggest insurance companies is CIGNA, which wants to merge with the much bigger firm, Anthem, a consolidation some analysts say could cost Connecticut some jobs. That fact notwithstanding, Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy and his hand-picked Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade seem to be all for it.
In fact, in keeping with their pro-insurance-industry orientation of the Malloy administration, Wade’s first action as Commission was to green-light another controversial insurance company merger, uniting Aetna and Humana. If Wade also OKs the CIGNA-Anthem marriage the arithmetic tells 2 stories…the Top 5 health insurance companies in America will become the Top 3 insurance companies in America and studies show, the fewer the competitors in an insurance market, the faster prices for consumers go up.
What could stop that? Well, in the recent past, state insurance commissions have halted planned mergers because they believed they would reduce competition and go against the interests of consumers. Insurance watchdogs say Connecticut would be the perfect place to short-circuit the CIGNA-Anthem merger.
But our guest today, International Business News’ Senior Investigations Editor David Sirota has found some strong signs Connecticut will approve the merger. What kinds of signs? …millions of dollars in contributions from CIGNA and Anthem, their lobbyists and employees going to organizations tied to Gov. Malloy and a network of family ties between Insurance Commissioner Wade and Insurance company CIGNA as close and wide as a trawler’s fishing net. Unseemly might be an ethicist’s word for it.
David Sirota is the senior editor for investigations at the International Business Times, as well as a best-selling author. He has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Politico, The Atlantic, Harper’s,Wired.com, Vice and Salon.com and he has served as a consultant on documentaries for CNN and The National Geographic Channel.