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Governor Lamont Introduces Comprehensive Package of Legislative Proposals on Healthcare

todayFebruary 10, 2022 52

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(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont today announced he has introduced a comprehensive package of legislative proposals that, if enacted, will improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for families and small businesses in Connecticut.

“Healthcare is a human right that too many Connecticut residents struggle to afford,” Governor Lamont said. “Last year, our bipartisan budget created Covered Connecticut to provide nearly 40,000 more people no-cost healthcare through Access Health CT, which is also offering big savings in healthcare for everyone. Although subsidies help, we must also address the high and rising underlying costs of care. That’s why I’m proposing legislation to make prices more transparent, safely re-import lower-cost prescription drugs from Canada, and cap run-away prices on prescription drugs here at home. Three in ten Americans report cutting pills in half, skipping doses, or swapping out drugs to save money – with the legislature’s help, that stops now.”

The initiatives and investments Governor Lamont is proposing this session will:

  • Reduce prescription drug prices by capping manufacturer’s annual price increases at no more than inflation plus two percent and by authorizing the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection to oversee the safe importation of lower-cost Canadian drugs.
  • Encourage lifesaving primary and preventive care by establishing a primary care spending target, by putting contact information for primary care providers and telehealth services at patients’ fingertips on their insurance cards, and by directing insurance companies to adopt health enhancement programs, modeled on the successful program open to state employees, that offer lower premiums and other financial incentives to residents who complete free screenings recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Taskforce.
  • Expand access to care and address the healthcare worker shortage by providing rate increases for adult dental care and family planning services that will expand the Medicaid provider network, by adopting two interstate occupational licensing compacts that cure red tape for doctors and psychologists, and by investing $35 million in expanding the number of education and training opportunities for aspiring nurses and mental health providers, $20 million in financial aid for students pursuing a nursing or mental health career pathway degree, and $17 million in a student loan-forgiveness program for clinicians that work in underserved communities. More than 7,000 qualified applicants were denied admission to Connecticut nursing programs in 2020 due to faculty shortages, lack of student clinical placements, and limited capacity for capstone experiences in specialty areas.
  • Provide more equitable care by enhancing the collection of race, ethnicity, and language data so we can identify, address, and monitor racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare and health outcomes under Public Act 21-35.

Connecticut Social Services Commissioner Dr. Deidre S. Gifford said, “Governor Lamont’s healthcare initiatives for this legislative session will mean real differences in the quality of life for many thousands of Connecticut residents. For our HUSKY Health program – already one of the leading Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance services nationally – the governor is proposing provider rate enhancements and other improvements to strengthen our networks and promote even better care for children, families, and individuals we serve. Family planning and dental rate increases in this budget will improve equity and access for HUSKY Health members. Advancing key areas like telehealth, primary and preventive care, cost transparency, and care access and equity, among others, will benefit people throughout the state. I look forward to working with the General Assembly in support of the governor’s recommendations.”

Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Andrew N. Mais said, “Governor Lamont’s proposal will help increase the quality and availability of health care for all Connecticut residents as we take the necessary steps to address costs and increase affordability. Getting access to health enhancement programs and being able to easily find a primary care practitioner to be your health care home will help consumers stay healthy in the long run by helping prevent avoidable illnesses and treating those that happen as soon as possible.”

Connecticut Office of Health Strategy Executive Director Victoria Veltri said, “The governor knows that healthcare is critical to every resident in the state and to businesses in our state. Making healthcare affordable begins with understanding what drives healthcare spending. Two years ago, Governor Lamont stood with legislative partners and healthcare stakeholders to charge the Office of Health Strategy with establishing targets for per capita healthcare spending growth with an eye toward driving action among all stakeholders to tie healthcare spending growth to a reasonable rate of growth. He also emphasized the critical importance of shoring up the primary care infrastructure of the state by setting a primary care spending target as a share of all medical expenses. Today, Governor Lamont proposes to make this work permanent, cementing our commitment to making healthcare more affordable by making data available and targeting areas for action.”

Connecticut Chief Workforce Officer Dr. Kelli Vallieres said, “Across the country, we’re seeing a massive shortage in our healthcare workers, who, right now, are needed more than ever. Governor Lamont’s legislative proposals tackle this issue head on by increasing faculty capacity at our colleges and universities so Connecticut can train more students to enter these fields, developing more streamlined pathway programs so we can address this shortage as fast as possible, and making this education more affordable by offering tuition assistance to students, especially those in the hardest hit communities.”

Today’s proposals build on the Lamont administration’s record of support for quality, affordable healthcare, including:

  • Creating the Covered Connecticut program to provide no-cost care to nearly 40,000 adults making too much for Medicaid, but less than 175% of the Federal Poverty Level, through Access Health CT.
  • Preventing health insurance rate hikes that would have cost consumers an extra $173 million.
  • Capping copays for insulin at $25 per month and for insulin-related supplies at $100 per month.
  • Requiring insurance coverage for mental illness and substance use disorder conditions is on par with coverage for physical illnesses.
  • Expanding HUSKY benefits to parents making less than 160% of the federal poverty level.
  • Extending HUSKY benefits to qualifying new mothers from 60 days to a full year postpartum.
  • Providing state-subsidized benefits, regardless of immigration status, to an estimated 2,800 income-eligible pregnant and postpartum women and 1,900 income-eligible children under 9.
  • Ensuring access to care throughout the pandemic by expanding access to telehealth, recognizing out-of-state licenses, extending opening a new special enrollment period for Access Health CT, and protecting consumers from out-of-pocket costs.
  • Establishing healthcare cost and quality benchmarks.
  • Launching a paid family and medical leave program so workers no longer have to choose between taking care of their health and earning a paycheck.

Governor Lamont’s proposed budget adjustment also allocates more than $100 million of federal relief funding to expanding mental health services that will help children and adults cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Written by: Mike Minarsky

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