We need action on health care in the 2020 session
By Lynne Ide
The 2020 state Legislative Session kicks off February 5 and ends on May 6, and it is high time that legislators take action to help everyday people get the care they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.
But will they do it? Here are three key factors that loom on the political landscape:
- It is a short session, which limits time, money, and room for bold action.
- It is an election year, which means politicians like to “bring home the bacon” for voters.
- It is a BIG federal election year, which dampens the will for state action.
We need to make sure our legislators and Governor Lamont do not walk away on May 6 without taking action to help families struggling with high health care costs.
Here are my state health care action hopes for 2020:
1.Help people with the high of cost prescription drugs. States are limited in what they can do without ending up in endless court battles with well-funded Big Pharma. Here are a few ideas:
- Put a cap on out-of-pocket consumers’ prescription drug expenses. There are 8 states that have passed laws to provide relief for people struggling to pay for their prescriptions.
- Prohibit insurers from mid-year switching on their list of covered drugs or moving a drug to a higher cost tier for reasons not related to health and safety. This came close to passing in 2019 and would protect people from mid-year bait and switch.
- Create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board – an independent body that will evaluate the price of prescription drugs and set upper limits on what consumers and other buyers (such as the state) will pay for certain high-cost drugs. Maryland has passed such a law.
2. Help people struggling with High Deductible Health Plans. Too many people put off the care they need, because they can’t afford to pay down their deductible before their insurance coverage kicks in. (It is not uncommon for individuals to have a $6,000 deductible, or a family with a $12,000 deductible. People are paying monthly premiums and still not getting care.)
- Last year, the legislature created a Task Force to look at this growing problem and make recommendations for action in 2020. The Task Force had its last meeting on February 5, which will culminate in a report. The legislature must not drop the ball on this- people need action right now.
3. Protect the more than 850,000 state residents who count on Medicaid (HUSKY) for health care. Connecticut must resist any effort to reduce eligibility for Medicaid (HUSKY) coverage. Across the state, in every community, working, elderly, and disabled people and children count on HUSKY. The federal government contributes the bulk of the funding for Medicaid with states making up the balance.
- One positive step would be to restore eligibility for parents up to 201% of the federal poverty level. This would help keep entire families healthier and decrease the amount of people who move in and out of eligibility in the course of a year due to fluctuations in income.
4. Set the stage for new ways to offer health plan options – such as a state-backed health plan – to small businesses, whose employees are often left to buy their own health care coverage. Too many small business owners and employees struggle to afford and keep quality health coverage, as the small group health insurance market offers fewer options and is costly.
- Connecticut legislators have tried twice to establish a so-called public option – in 2009 and 2019. It’s time our elected leaders stood up for the largest employment sector in the state – small businesses. There is no good excuse to continue to turn our backs on this challenge.