What Connecticut Can Learn From Oregon’s Prescription Drug Transparency Bill

pharma.jpgIn the state-by-state war against high drug prices, Oregon is the latest state setting an example for Connecticut.

Oregon’s bill, HB 4005, was signed into law in mid-March by Governor Kate Brown.  It is a prime example of state legislation that pushes for greater transparency and accountability from pharmaceutical corporations in an effort to address the rising cost of prescription drugs.

Continue reading

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What Health Care Bills are Still Alive in Hartford – Part 2

By Rosana G. Ferraro |

capital3Earlier this week we updated you on the status of some of the health care bills at the Capitol, focusing on bills that focused on prescription drug costs and protecting people from federal actions that erode health care coverage – today we’ll wrap up with Part 2 (read Part 1 here).

Quick summary of where the legislative session is at: 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.  We’re focusing on bills that address some of the Foundation’s ideas for action we discussed before the session began.

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

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

Rosana G. Ferraro |

capital3After 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!). Continue reading

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ACTION ALERT: Make Another Call For Medicaid Restoration!

Call your legislators to help restore Medicaid!

Yes, we’re asking you to make a call for Medicaid again.  The Appropriations Committee must take final action by Thursday, April 5, this may be our last opportunity to push for restoration of Medicaid cuts!  Keep scrolling to get all the details of how to reach out to legislators.  Click here for a fact sheet on this issue.

We are asking the Appropriations Committee to include restoration of Medicaid cuts in a FY ’19 budget bill.  This includes:

  • Funding to continue the Medicare Savings Program at current eligibility levels (saving about 113,000 seniors and people with disabilities from cuts to this essential Medicaid program, which covers unaffordable Medicare premiums and cost-sharing payments, which cuts otherwise will go into effect on July 1st)
  • Restoration of HUSKY A parents’ eligibility to 155% FPL (saving about 13,300 adults from elimination of their Medicaid coverage, which otherwise happens on January 1, 2019)
  • Removal of the cap on HUSKY adult dental services (restoring access to full dental services for about 16,000 Medicaid enrollees per year)
  • Restoration of primary care reimbursement rates to 100% of the 2014 Medicare rates (protecting primary care access for Medicaid enrollees of all ages)

What To Say & Who To Contact

What to tell legislators:

Start by telling them who you are and that you are a constituent calling about Medicaid cuts.  If you are personally affected by these cuts, make sure to tell them!

Then ask them to:

  • Restore Medicaid cuts in a 2019 budget bill, including cuts to the Medicare Savings Program, HUSKY A for parents, dental coverage for adults, and primary care rates.
  • Children, parents, elderly, individuals with disabilities and other adults in your district rely on Medicaid for their health (click here for town-by-town numbers of Medicaid recipients)
  • Can not balance the budget on the backs of those with the least
  • Do not just move around cuts to other important programs that serve Connecticut residents
  • Legislators may ask “How do we pay for this?

End by thanking them for their time and for protecting residents on Medicaid.

Who do I call?

First, call your own legislators.  Everyone has one Representative in the House, and a Senator in the Senate.  Don’t know who your legislators are?  Click here to FIND YOUR LEGISLATORS.

If your legislator is not on the Appropriations Committee, please ask them to bring your message to the Committee and to advocate on your behalf.

Another way to call: Use the switchboard phone numbers (below) and ask for your legislator or their aide.

How do I know if my legislators are on the Appropriations Committee?

Click here for a list of Appropriations Committee members.

Or even easier?  When you call, just ask the person you speak with if the legislator is on the Appropriations Committee.

Who else can I call?

Second, feel free to call legislators on the Appropriations Committee.  Click here for a list of Appropriations Committee members.

Can I email legislators instead?

It’s okay to email legislators, but they do get a lot of email — it might be better to call first, and follow up with an email.

Anything else I can do?

Yes!

A little more about the issue and the Appropriations Committee:

The Appropriations Committee held several days and evenings of hearings in February to hear from state agencies and the public.  Its Subcommittees, including the Human Services Subcommittee, have made their recommendations, and the leaders of the Committee have been reviewing those recommendations (a previous alert urged contacts with the Human Services Subcommittee).  Now is the time to influence the full Appropriations Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Medicaid Public Option for Connecticut?

By Jill Zorn |

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In the midst of the flurry of health care bills under consideration at the capitol, there is one more bill to highlight, HB 5463:  An Act Concerning a Medicaid Public Option.  The Human Services Committee held a public hearing on the bill yesterday, March 20.

HB 5463 proposes that the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services, in consultation with the Office of Health Strategy and the Health Care Cabinet, conduct a study on how a Medicaid public option, called HUSKY E, could be offered as a choice on Connecticut’s health insurance marketplace, Access Health CT.  It suggests an aggressive timeline for the study to be completed and also proposes deadlines for a waiver request to be submitted to the federal government and for the Medicaid option to be implemented.

While there is not a lot of detail in the bill, it specifically states that steps be taken to “ensure the HUSKY E plan does not diminish the long-term sustainability of or negatively impact the Medicaid program.”  It also includes a provision to maximize access to “necessary health services…by applying any excess of funds received over plan costs to increased reimbursement rates for providers.”

Other states are considering establishing a pubic option based on the Medicaid program.  Among them are New Mexico, which passed a bill to study a Medicaid buy-in option, and Colorado, where legislation is expected to be introduced soon.  Nevada passed a bill last year, but it was vetoed by the governor.

In the Foundation’s testimony in support of the bill, we included a reminder that the idea of a public option is not new in Connecticut:

In 2009, Connecticut passed PA 09-148, to create the SustiNet plan, a public option that would be anchored in both Medicaid and the State Employee Health Plan.  The SustiNet Health Partnership Board, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and Comptroller Kevin Lembo, began meeting in September 2009 to plan implementation of SustiNet.  Five advisory committees and three task forces were convened and more than 160 Connecticut residents participated in the planning process.   A final report was submitted to the Connecticut General Assembly in January 2011.

Several other organizations submitted testimony in favor of HB 5463, including Connecticut Citizen Action Group, the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, Connecticut Voices for Children and Comptroller Lembo.

Here is an excerpt from the Comptroller’s testimony:

The status quo of high premiums, high deductibles and annual double-digit premium increases is unsustainable. We need to take bold state-level action to ensure quality and affordable coverage for the growing number of residents who do not have access to employer-sponsored health coverage. A Medicaid public option has the potential to lower premiums, stabilize the market and provide a viable insurance option for Connecticut residents who must purchase their coverage on the individual market.

Echoing the Comptroller’s call for bold action, the Foundation’s testimony concluded:

Universal Health Care Foundation has testified this session in support of bills that help to stabilize the current health insurance marketplace.  We firmly believe it is time to consider the bolder approach suggested in HB 5463.  We urge passage of this bill, to move Connecticut closer to the goal of universal, affordable, quality health coverage and care.

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Activists Deliver Message at Health Care Action Day

13.JPGEveryday people are too often left out of the public policy debate.

On March 14, 60 activists made sure their voices were heard at the Protect Our Care CT Campaign’s Health Care Action Day in Hartford.

The goal of the day:  Tell your state senator and representative what health care issues you care about and urge them to take action this year.

The activists focused on 4 key issues (Check out the fact sheet):

  • Addressing the rising costs of prescription drugs
  • Restoring cuts to Medicaid (HUSKY) made last year
  • Putting federal protections for quality health care plans into state law
  • Exploring a new way to expand health care choices via a Medicaid public option

For two hours, activists fanned out in the legislative office building.  They connected with close to a third of the state’s 151 lawmakers and left messages for those they didn’t reach.

They also raised their visibility in the building’s atrium, bringing the normal clamor in the busy space to a hush.  Their “human billboard” spelled out:

Protect Our Care CT says: We All Need Care.  (Check out the video)

Check out some pictures from the day’s activities –

The next Health Care Action Day is scheduled for April 18.  Let us know if you’d like to join us at: info@universalhealthct.org.

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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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