June 13, 2018

2018 Legislative Progress Report

As Chair of the Public Health Committee, I worked hard this past year to introduce and lead legislative passage of groundbreaking reforms that will have a lasting impact on Connecticut’s health care policy. Despite the 18-18 party tie in the state senate, we were able to work together as a team, and in a collaborative, bipartisan way, to make the 2018 session the most productive and significant year of my legislative service.

Protecting & Expanding Health Care Access

Ensuring Health Benefits for Pregnant Women

We need to ensure quality, affordable health insurance for everyone in Connecticut. This bill takes important steps by requiring certain health insurance plans to provide a special enrollment period to pregnant women who do not have insurance that covers minimum essential health benefits. Providing this opportunity to enroll in insurance will better the lives of many women and their families.

Working for Mental Health Parity

It’s been 10 years since the passage of federal legislation mandating mental health parity in insurance coverage, yet Connecticut patients still have trouble accessing mental health treatment. The bill would have changed the type of data that must be included in the annual “Consumer Report Card on Health Insurance Carriers in Connecticut” which helps the insurance commissioner investigate discrepancies in insurance coverage and make suggested changes. The bill also requires that screenings for mental and nervous conditions be included as part of an annual physical exam.

Covering Orally and Intravenously Administered Medications

In 2010, the Connecticut General Assembly passed legislation to address the fact that many current therapies can include oral rather than intravenous chemotherapy. Unfortunately, this provision applies only to cancer therapy and there are a number of other diseases that are now best treated with these types of medications. The oral medications can include biologics/ biopharmaceuticals which have revolutionized care for some diseases and have offered many patients a new lease on life. However, these drugs are often extraordinarily expensive. This bill will create greater equity in our healthcare system by extending to all patients the protections that we extended to cancer patients eight years ago.

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs & Protecting Consumers

Prescription Drug Price Transparency

Our state and the nation face a crisis of skyrocketing prescription drug costs. This bill provides groundbreaking transparency and access to essential financial information regarding prescription drugs. This information will illuminate the impact of prescription drugs on state health care costs and on patients directly in terms of cost and quality of care. Connecticut will be the first in the nation to require transparency through the entire life cycle of the drug beginning with the manufacturer and ending with the patient.

Finding Solutions to Multiple Medications

Polypharmacy, the concurrent use of multiple medications by a patient, is most common in the elderly, affecting about 40 percent of older adults living in their own homes. This bill requires the Health Information Technology Officer to establish a working group concerning polypharmacy and medication reconciliation. Finding solutions for our seniors dealing with the challenges of handling multiple medications simultaneously is an important goal for our state.

Protecting Consumers from Unexpected Prescription Drug Costs

It is simply unfair that if a patient buys a health insurance policy that includes prescription drug coverage for a specific drug that the health insurer can change the formulary during the policy term and exclude that drug. This bill generally prohibits individual and group health insurers, for plans with out-of-pocket prescription drug expenses greater than $40, from reclassifying a drug to a higher cost sharing tier for prescription drugs that a patient is already on and prohibits individual and group health insurers from denying coverage for a covered prescription drug during a plan year by removing it from its formulary if a patient is currently on the prescription drug.

Protection from Unnecessary Fees & Coverage for Prosthetic Devices

Protection from Unnecessary Emergency Room Fees

Too many people find it difficult to tell whether an office is a free standing emergency room or an urgent care clinic. The charges at a free standing emergency room are much higher. This bill creates a definition of a Free Standing Emergency Department, changes the definition for an Urgent Care Center, and creates a signage requirement for a Free Standing Emergency Department. Now patients will not be surprised when they get an Emergency Department level bill but think they went to an urgent care clinic.

Health Insurance Fairness for Prosthetic Devices

Connecticut has approximately 20,000 residents that are living with limb loss. This bill will require health insurance coverage for prosthetic arms and legs to help those living with limb loss. 20 other states have similar health insurance requirements, and this will bring Connecticut in line with those states.

Curbing Opioid Use & Providing Treatment

The opioid epidemic has taken a tremendous toll on our communities. This bill contains a number of actions, reforms, and innovative ideas to curb this addiction and get treatment for those who need it. The bill will:

  • Study the innovative establishment of one or more courts that specialize in the hearing of cases where the defendant is an opioid-dependent person, who could benefit from intensive court monitoring and placement in a substance abuse treatment program.
  • Study different measures for opioid-dependent arrestees including innovative treatment placement options, a rapid integration team that meets the person’s needs, and the development of daily court monitoring, and the use of curfews and electronic-monitoring tools in substance abuse treatment programs.
  • Prohibit the prescribing or administering of opioids to the prescriber themselves or immediate family members, except in emergencies.
  • Establish an opioid epidemic working group and require local health departments to develop preventative initiatives to address drug overdoses.
  • Bolster a pilot program for medication assisted treatment to inmates with opioid use disorders.

We must continue to do our part to support families and put people on the road to recovery from opioid addiction.