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

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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.

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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.

Keeping health care protections from the ACA

EHBWith 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

LIdePIDispute3When 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.

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ACTION ALERT: Make a Phone Call for Restoring Medicaid!

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The Human Services Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee will finish their work and submit recommendations to the chairs of the Committee by the end of this week. We have one last opportunity to make a final request of the subcommittee to restore the Medicaid cuts made in last October’s budget.

Please make a call to the subcommittee members (list and contact info below!) and tell them you’re a taxpayer who wants Medicaid cuts restored.  You can specifically ask for:

–Restoration of HUSKY A health coverage for adults between 138%-155% of the federal poverty level (otherwise about 13,300 lose their Medicaid coverage on January 1, 2019) – Learn more

–Continuation of the Medicare Savings Program at the current income eligibility guidelines (otherwise, about 113,000 low-income elderly and disabled individuals will lose some or all of their Medicaid coverage under the MSP program effective July 1, 2018, rendering access to health care under Medicare unaffordable) – Learn more

–Repeal of the $1000 cap imposed on HUSKY dental services for adults – Learn more

–Repeal of decrease in the primary care reimbursement rates from 100% to 95% of the Medicare rates – Learn more

Here’s a fact sheet on all four of these important issues – Click here.

Here’s our blog on a recent Restore Medicaid event

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Please call or email the Human Services subcommittee members listed below by the end of the day Friday (March 16th) and request their support for Medicaid restoration.

Please feel free to share this alert!

Human Services Subcommittee Members
(A subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee)

Co-Chair: Sen. Mae Flexer (D-S29)
(860) 240-8634
Mae.Flexer@cga.ct.gov

Co-Chair: Sen. Joe Markley (R-S16)
(860) 240-0381
Joe.Markley@cga.ct.gov

Co-Chair: Rep. Cathy Abercrombie (D-83)
(860) 240-0492
Catherine.Abercrombie@cga.ct.gov

Ranking Member: Rep. Jay Case (R-63)
(860) 240-8700
Jay.Case@housegop.ct.gov

Members:
Sen. Terry Gerratana (D-S6)
(860) 240-0584
Gerratana@senatedems.ct.gov

Rep. Minnie Gonzalez (D-3)
(860) 240-8500
Minnie.Gonzalez@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106)
(860) 240-8700
Mitch.Bolinsky@housegop.ct.gov

Rep. Jeff Currey (D-11)
(860) 240-8500
Jeff.Currey@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Chris Perone (D-137)
(860) 240-8500
Chris.Perone@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Mike France (R-42)
(860) 240-8700
Mike.France@housegop.ct.gov

Rep. Michael DiMassa (D-116)
(860) 240-8500
Michael.DiMassa@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Peter Tercyak (D-26)
(860) 240-8500
Peter.Tercyak@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Brian Ohler (R-64)
(860) 240-8700
Brian.Ohler@housegop.ct.gov

Rep. Gregg Haddad (D-54)
(860) 240-0271
Gregory.Haddad@cga.ct.gov

Sen. Paul Formica (R-S20)
(860) 240-8371
Paul.Formica@cga.ct.gov

Rep. William Petit (R-22)
(860) 240-8700
William.Petit@housegop.ct.gov

Rep. Patricia Dillon (D-92)
(860) 240-8500
Patricia.Dillon@cga.ct.gov

Rep. Sam Belsito (R-53)
(860) 240-8700
sam.belsito@housegop.ct.gov

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March 14 – Join Us to Protect Health Care We All Count On

capital3Our state legislators are considering many health care bills this session.

Some of the bills move us forward toward quality, affordable health care for every state resident – and some bills would move us backward.

We need you to urge your legislators to make good decisions.

Stand with health care activists and advocates on March 14

Protect Our Care CT Campaign (POCCT) HEALTH CARE ACTION DAY

Wednesday, March 14 from 1 – 4 pm in Hartford

1 pm – Call to Action & Briefing on health care bills – Gather at Emanuel Lutheran Church hall at 311 Capitol Avenue, which is across the street from the Legislative Office Building (LOB) – you can park in the LOB parking garage

2:15 – 4 pm – At the LOB: Connect with your legislators & participate in POCCT visibility activities – Room 2600 at the LOB is the coordination center for these activities  

Please RSVP to: info@universalhealthct.org

Here’s our alert on the health care bills heard at the Capitol just in this week.

Some of the bills being considered this session include:

  • Protecting HUSKY/Medicaid funding and opposing eligibility changes that take coverage from people, including restoring cuts to the Medicare Savings Program (See this recent Restore Medicaid event, and here’s a fact sheet that talks about this issue)
  • Protecting women’s health coverage and requiring that health plans include the 10 essential health benefits, including screenings, preventive care, mental health and pediatric care (Read our testimony on that bill)
  • Taking on the high cost of prescription drugs (A fact sheet and our testimony on that bill)
  • Creating a state public option via a Medicaid Buy-In (Read that bill here)
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Your Voice Counts: Busy Week Ahead on State Health Care Legislation

capital3It’s a busy time for health care ideas up at the State Capitol.

There are at least 8 proposed bills that are scheduled for public hearings March 5 – 9 at the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford.

We know the paid lobbyists will be there in force.  And, too few everyday people will be heard.

Now is a good time for you to weigh in on how these bills affect you.

You do not have to be a policy expert to share your thoughts on these bills.  In fact, all you need to do is state why you do – or do not – support the bill and, if possible, share your own story about why this bill is important to you and how would impact your life.

Continue reading

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Restraining Prescription Drug Prices: Final Report from Connecticut’s Healthcare Cabinet

By Jill Zorn

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Fair and affordable drug prices are crucial to preserve and protect our health.

Last week the Healthcare Cabinet released their final report recommending state government strategies for restraining prescription drug prices.  A copy of the report, Recommendations on Pharmaceutical Cost Containment Strategies, can be found HERE.  The report includes a two-page Executive Summary and information about legislation that has passed in other states.

Continue reading

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ACTION ALERT: Speak Up March 1 to Protect Health Care Coverage in State Law

It’s not news that actions in Washington, D.C. to erode the protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have an impact on people in Connecticut.

That’s why the Protect Our Care CT Campaign, advocates and some state legislators are working to make sure Connecticut residents are protected against paying for health plans that won’t give them the care they need.

There is a public hearing on March 1 on House Bill 5210 that requires important types of coverage (called the Essential Health Benefits) to be included in state health plans.

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The 10 Essential Health Benefits protected in the ACA are:

    • Ambulatory patient services
    • Emergency services
    • Hospitalization
    • Maternity and newborn care
    • Mental health and substance use services, including, but not limited to, behavioral health treatment
    • Prescription drugs
    • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
    • Laboratory services
    • Preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management
    • Pediatric services, including, but not limited to, oral and vision care

House Bill 5210 would also require that:

Women, children and adolescents have access to important care without cost-sharing, including:

  • Women get no-cost contraception coverage, and coverage for disease and cancer screenings
  • Children and adolescents get no cost immunization, preventive care and screenings

Speak up on March 1! Share your story of why these health care benefits are important to you and what it would be like to lose them.  Here’s how:

The Insurance & Real Estate Committee of state legislature is holding a public hearing on House Bill 5210 An Act Mandating Insurance Coverage of Essential Health Benefits and expanding Mandated Health Benefits for Women, Children and Adolescents (click here to read the bill) on Thursday, March 1 at noon in Room 2-D of the Legislative Office Building (LOB) in Hartford.

You can send written comments to the Committee before March 1, testify at the hearing on Thursday, or contact your state senator and representative to tell them that you support the bill (Don’t know who your legislators are? Click here to Find Your Legislators).

Sign-up for the hearing will begin 10:00 a.m. on March 1 in Room 2800 of the LOB.  Please submit 25 copies of written testimony to the Committee staff 10:00 a.m. in Room 2800 of the LOB. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of spoken testimony. 

Please email written testimony in Word or PDF format to INStestimony@cga.ct.gov. 

Questions? Contact us at: info@universalhealthct.org

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Restore Medicaid event re-energizes advocates at the Capitol

By Rosana G. Ferraro |

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On a warm Wednesday afternoon, Medicaid advocates from different organizations came together ahead of a public hearing at the Capitol to fight back against cuts to Medicaid programs in the state budget.

In the 2018-2019 state budget, there are severe cuts to Medicaid programs – and advocates want the cuts restored.  Four major cuts advocates talked about:

  • Dropping the income eligibility limits for HUSKY A – which will mean that over 13,000 parents and caregivers will lose their insurance coverage
  • Dropping the income eligibility limits for the Medicare Savings Program, which helps low-income elderly individuals and people with disabilities cover costs that Medicare doesn’t pay for – 113,000 low-income elderly individuals and people with disabilities will lose some or all of their financial help after June 30, 2018
  • Capping adult dental benefits at $1,000 – which means over 16,000 adults lose comprehensive dental coverage, and
  • Cutting primary care provider rates – which may mean fewer providers participate in Medicaid, making it harder for Medicaid members to access care

DSC00079Kathy Flaherty, Executive Director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, MC’ed the event, which opened with Elaine Kolb, a disability rights activity, singing “My Medicaid Matters” (to the tune of “Battle Hym of the Republic”).

Melissa Marshall, of the Connecticut Cross Disability Lifespan Alliance, explained how we got here, telling the story of last year’s fight against these terrible budget cuts.

Sheldon Toubman, of New Haven Legal Assistance, talked about how the Connecticut Medicaid program has improved – and how these cuts jeopardize the health of thousands of Connecticut residents.

Two women, Kim Hart, whose family relies on HUSKY/Medicaid coverage, and Juliet Meyer, who relies on the Medicare Savings Program (MSP), told their stories to the group.

 

Ann Pratt, of Connecticut Citizen Action Group, discussed the testifying process for the upcoming public hearing, and other opportunities for action in the 2018 legislative session, including Health Care Action Days at the Legislature planned for March 14 and April 18 (you should join us!).

dsc00171.jpgRevitalized, re-energized, and creating a human billboard that said Restore Medicaid, the group headed over to the Appropriations Committee public hearing to testify for restoration of Medicaid cuts in the state budget.

This is just one event in the long fight to make sure that HUSKY / Medicaid programs are restored and stay strong for the residents of Connecticut.  Thank you to all the organizations, advocates, activists, individuals impacted, and allies who came together for this event.

Make sure to sign up at Protect Our Care CT to get alerts about upcoming Health Care Action Days at the Capitol, and much more!

Press:

Activists keep the pressure on over state healthcare cuts, by Emilie Munson, Feb. 21, 2018, CT Post

Learn more with fact sheets from the event:

Video:

Check out the Connecticut Cross Disability Lifespan Alliance’s Facebook live videos here & here

Check out the Appropriations Committee public hearing where advocates and activists testified for restoration of HUSKY / Medicaid cuts (CT-N Connecticut Network)

Posted in Rosana G. Ferraro | Tagged ,