Matt Lesser

State Senator

Matt Lesser

Deputy Majority Leader

Your Independent Voice

March 20, 2019

Lesser, Scanlon Applaud Committee for Advancing Public Option, Mental Health Parity

HARTFORD, CT – Less than a week after major health insurance reform legislation was advanced by the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, another group of transformative, important reform bills advanced. Committee co-chairs State Senator Matt Lesser (D-Middletown) and State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford) were thrilled with the advancement of bills to establish a public option for Connecticut individuals, families, small businesses and nonprofits, mental health parity for those battling mental health illnesses or substance abuse, and coverage of breast ultrasounds to help with early detection of breast cancer. Separate legislation would protect victims of domestic violence, establish reinsurance pools and subsidies for the purchase of health insurance, and establish an individual mandate to purchase coverage.

“Today’s historic health insurance votes are a critical step along the path to reform for families and businesses,” said Sen. Lesser. “Connecticut is now perched at the forefront of the national fight for healthcare reform. Today’s vote to move forward the two bills establishing a public option gives us momentum as we work to provide more options, more competition and lower prices for Connecticut families, small business, and nonprofits. We don’t have to wait for Washington to get its act together – Connecticut can and will lead.”

Rep. Scanlon said the work the committee is doing is solidifying a promise to voters to bring down the cost of care in Connecticut.

“The people of Connecticut are sick and tired of the quality of their insurance going down at the same time the cost of insurance is going up,” said Rep. Scanlon. “Last year, we made a promise to the voters that we would take action to lower costs and improve quality and I’m proud that our committee put together and passed a bold agenda this session to do just that. By passing over fifty bills including creating a public option for health insurance for small businesses and individuals to lowering the cost of prescription drugs to ensuring mental health parity, we are one step closer to creating a more affordable Connecticut when it comes to health care.”

Last week, legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs, and deal with the problem of high deductible plans advanced out of committee. On Tuesday, the Insurance and Real Estate committee advanced the following bills to the House and Senate.

A Public Option for Connecticut: Two public option bills, House Bill 7267 and Senate Bill 134, will provide a public option to Connecticut. House Bill 7267 takes a three-pronged approach at providing a public option to individuals, and small businesses and nonprofits, rolling it out over the course of three years. It has been endorsed by the Connecticut State Medical Society, the Connecticut Association of Realtors and has a fiscal note of under $1 million. This public option will create competition in the insurance marketplace, which will mean better prices and care for Connecticut families. It will also make our state an even more attractive destination for small businesses, which make up a large portion of our state’s economy.

Mental Health Parity: House Bill 7125 will establish the strongest and most effective mental health parity laws in the nation. This legislation will require insurance companies to submit yearly reports concerning parity for mental health and substance use disorders, require health insurance coverage for prescription medication prescribed for treating substance use disorders and require health insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment regardless of whether such services were provided due to a court order. This legislation will ensure fair, equitable treatment for individuals battling addiction or living with mental health illnesses and work to end the stigma around substance abuse and mental health related illnesses.

Covering Breast Ultrasounds: Senate Bill 838 and House Bill 7124 will make important breast ultrasounds affordable. The Senate Bill will do away with cost-sharing for certain mammograms and breast ultrasounds. The House bill will require health insurance coverage for mammograms and comprehensive breast ultrasounds screening. Breast ultrasounds are necessary to detect dense breast tissue, tissue a mammogram may not detect, which can cover signs of breast cancer. High deductible health plans put breast ultrasounds out of reach for many, and if the results of a mammogram are encouraging, an individual might bypass the breast ultrasound. This legislation will ensure individuals are fully and thoroughly examined.

Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence: Senate Bill 977, An Act Concerning Explanation of Benefits will allow people with insurance to keep information about the healthcare they’ve consumed, a document called an “Explanation of Benefits” confidential in certain circumstances. This bill is supported by a wide coalition including the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) which sees this as a vital tool to allow victims of violence to seek care without fear of retaliation.

Addressing the State’s Crumbling Foundations: Senate Bill 907 will require anyone selling property to provide a “Residential Condition Report,” with any facts about the property, to the seller’s knowledge, about the presence of the harmful iron sulfide pyrrhotite in concrete foundations, if any testing was done to locate pyrrhotite, any degradation caused by pyrrhotite and any repairs due to deterioration. When these iron sulfides are exposed to water and oxygen, they swell causing cracks and structural damage. According to the Department of Housing, more than 35,000 homes in Eastern, Northern and Central Connecticut are facing a potentially disastrous issue due to the presence of this iron sulfide.