What Health Care Bills are Still Alive in Hartford – Part 1

Rosana G. Ferraro |

After the flurry of public hearings and action deadlines in most committees, we have a clearer picture of what bills are still alive in the session – and which bills died in committee.

First off – the time for action on restoring Medicaid cuts is now – you can check out our action alert with more information here.

Before the legislative session started,  the Foundation pointed out some ideas for action.  We’ll revisit these some of these ideas an update today – and wrap up with the rest in Part 2 (coming this week!).

Addressing rising prescription drug costs

Prescription drug costs have been a growing concern for people (check out our blogs on this issue).  For the Foundation, this is a critical issue to make sure that people can afford their medications.

House Bill 5384: An Act Concerning the Cost of Prescription Drugs proposes to

  • Give consumers the benefit of rebates negotiated by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (who are the ones who set up drug formularies for insurance companies)
  • Give the Office of Health Strategy the authority to request that drug manufacturers to justify large price increases, and
  • Make the workings of Pharmacy Benefit Managers more transparent

These are some good first steps to address rising prescription drug costs.

  • Status: Still alive. This bill made it out of committee with some changes
  • Check out our testimony on this bill here
  • Read the new bill language here

Protecting people from federal actions that erode health care coverage

2017 was the year of many attempts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act.  For 2018, the Foundation made it a priority to make strides at the state level to ensure that, regardless of what happens at the federal level, Connecticut residents will continue to benefit from the gains made under the Affordable Care Act.

There have been some bills this session that move Connecticut forward.

House Bill 5210: An Act Mandating Insurance coverage of Essential Health Benefits and Expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents proposed to put the Essential Health Benefits into state law.  That would mean that health plans would have to cover the types of services most people expect insurance to cover, such as hospitalizations, prescription drugs, comprehensive coverage for children, maternity care and more.

The proposal would also make sure that critical preventive services for women, children and adolescents is provided at no-cost — such as cancer screenings and contraception for women, vaccines for children, and age-appropriate preventive care for teens.

  • Status: Still alive. This bill made it out of committee with some changes.
  • You can read our testimony here
  • Check out the report from the committee, which shows overwhelming support for this bill from many different legislators, individuals, and groups
  • The new bill language is here

There have also been some bills proposed that would move Connecticut backward.

House Bill 5207: An Act Expanding Health Insurance Products in the State proposed to allow the sale of health insurance plans that don’t need to conform to state or federal law – cheap plans that don’t cover many benefits.  This would be a major step backwards for coverage and quality – it would basically have taken us back in time to before the Affordable Care Act.

  • Status: Bill is dead. The bill did not make it out of committee.
  • See our testimony in opposition here

Senate Bill 373: An Act Concerning the Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange, Low Option benefit Design and Short-Term Care Policies is another proposal that will take us backwards.  The bill authorizes Low Option Benefit Design plans to be sold in the state and on the exchange – these plans would have much higher consumer out-of-pocket costs than is currently permitted.

The bill also allows short-term health insurance policies to be sold on the exchange, if allowed by the federal government – which could destabilize the individual market and make premiums higher for quality plans.  And if that’s not enough, the bill also includes language that alters the exchange’s fundamental mission of providing quality health plans for Connecticut residents.

  • Status: Still alive. This bill made it out of committee with some changes
  • See our testimony in opposition here
  • See the newest bill language here

And then there’s the individual mandate.

The individual mandate – or the requirement to have health insurance – was repealed in the December 2017 tax bill passed by Congress.  Connecticut is one state thinking about putting a state-based individual mandate in place.  There were two bills on this subject:

  • House Bill 5039: An Act Protecting Health Care Fairness and Affordability
  • House Bill 5379: An Act Establishing a State Individual Health Care Responsibility Fee – Connecticut received national attention for this bill, because it proposed a very high penalty

While House Bill 5039 did get voted out of committee, the individual mandate concept was taken out of the bill.

  • Status: Dead. Or is it?  This article suggests that the individual mandate concept may return
  • Our testimony on these bills challenged legislators to think bigger, read it here

You can always call your legislators about any of these bills to let them know what you think.  Don’t know who your legislators are?  Click here to Find Your Legislators.

Stay tuned later in the week for Part 2 of our update!