Putting CT health care first at the Capitol – Public hearings in Hartford

Robin Comey of Branford tells her story at the press conference with Comptroller Kevin Lembo, State Senator Sean Scanlon, and Foundation President Frances G Padilla

Fighting back against rising prescription drug costs

One of Universal Health Care Foundation’s top legislative priorities is to see a strong bill to implement many of the priority recommendations of the Healthcare Cabinet for addressing high prescription drug prices. HB 5384: An Act Concerning Prescription Drug Costs is the main vehicle this session for addressing prescription drug costs, had a public hearing on March 6 in the Insurance and Real Estate Committee.

Frances G. Padilla, Foundation President

Frances Padilla, Universal Health Care Foundation President, delivered the Foundation’s testimony at the public hearing and also spoke at a press conference earlier that day. Speakers at the press conference included Rep. Sean Scanlon, Comptroller Kevin Lembo and a Connecticut resident, Robin Comey, who shared her story about the challenge her family faces to afford her son’s asthma medication.

Ahead of the hearing, the Foundation developed a fact sheet that highlighted the sections of the bill we support, and made several suggestions for how the bill should be strengthened. Following the Foundation’s lead, a total of 21 people and organizations submitted testimony on the bill, highlighting ways it could be improved. Two state agencies and 9 industry stakeholders, including representatives from pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurers and PBMs also submitted testimony.

Several people testified in person, including, Dr Steve Smith (below right), a Foundation Board Member and part of the National Physicans Alliance, and Dr. Rebecca Vitale (below left), a primary care resident physician at Yale. Dr. Vitale, who lives with Type 1 diabetes, spoke about the cost of insulin and how much it has risen over time. She also related the story of one of her diabetic patients, who isn’t always able to regularly take her insulin because of affordability challenges, and is slowly going blind as a result of her inability to keep her condition under control.

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Keeping health care protections from the ACA

With the Trump Administration and Congress still working to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states are taking action to protect the coverage gains and protections that the ACA put in place.  HB 5210: An Act Mandating Insurance Coverage of Essential Health Benefits and Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents makes permanent the requirement that insurance policies continue to cover a full range of benefits like mental health care, newborn care, emergency and hospital care and prescription drugs. It also ensures coverage of preventive health services at no cost, including birth control.

Rose Ferraro, the Foundation’s Policy Officer, delivered our testimony in support of the bill at the Insurance and Real Estate Committee’s public hearing on March 1. And Lynne Ide, Director of Program and Policy, participated in a press conference earlier that day, where legislators from both parties spoke in support of the bill.

People shouldn’t be caught in the middle of hospital and insurer disputes

When big insurers and hospital systems have contract disputes, consumers often get caught in the middle, afraid to seek care. The Foundation been raised concerns about this problem in the past and we are glad to see a bill introduced to protect people from “dueling corporate giants.” Lynne Ide, Director of Program and Policy delivered the Foundation’s testimony in support of HB 5383: An Act Concerning Disputes Between Health Carriers and Participating Providers That Are Hospitals at a public hearing of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee on March 6. Individual mandate for Connecticut? The tax bill passed by Congress in December eliminates the individual mandate, a fee charged to people who do not enroll in health coverage. Now some states are debating whether to implement a fee themselves. Two bills introduced this session propose implementing an individual mandate in Connecticut. Governor Malloy’s bill HB 5039: An Act Protecting Health Care Fairness and Affordability, and HB 5379: An Act Establishing a State Individual Health Care Responsibility Fee and the Connecticut Health Care Savings Program. The Governor’s bill suggests a fee that is $500 per year or 2% of adjusted gross income, whichever is greater. The second bill, which proposed a much higher fee, but also suggested setting that fee aside to help individuals pay for coverage, garnered some national attention, including this article in Vox, A Connecticut proposal could charge up to $10,000 for not carrying health insurance. Frances Padilla, President of the Foundation, delivered testimony at a public hearing of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee on March 8. She challenged the legislature to think beyond the “band aid” that an individual mandate provides and begin to think about bolder options for achieving universal, affordable, quality coverage.

Medicaid work requirement is wrong for our state

It is outrageous that a bill requiring Medicaid recipients to work in order to maintain their health coverage even has to be discussed in our state. But on March 15, the Human Services Committee held a public hearing on SB 270:  An Act Concerning Work and Community Service Requirements for Recipients of Certain Public Assistance Programs .  The Foundation submitted testimony in strong opposition to the bill:

This proposal is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – it dresses itself up as wanting to help people who aren’t working to have an incentive to work, but it is really a proposal that will cause people to lose coverage.

Many other advocacy groups testified against it – go here to read their testimony – and legislators shared their opinions during the hearing. This is one bill that should never make it out of committee.