HARTFORD, CT — Connecticut’s top Democratic and Republican state senators touted their bipartisan cooperation in passing legislation to increase transparency in pharmaceutical costs, and minutes later they received a letter from Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy criticizing how they reached the final product and shut out the insurance industry in the process.
“To be blunt, I am dismayed,” Malloy wrote in a letter minutes after the bill unanimously passed the Senate. “It is not the intent of the bill that worries me, but rather the process that led to its passage, which I believe is emblematic of a much larger problem that has played out in Connecticut for some time.”
That problem Malloy pointed to was not viewing the industry as a partner.
“Too often, we see an unnecessarily antagonistic approach toward Connecticut’s insurance industry,” Malloy wrote. “Employers are denied the stability and predictability they need, forcing them to continually shift the landscape for their customers — the constituents we share.”
The bill which now goes to the House addresses fairness in pharmacy benefit manager contracts. It would eliminate the “gag clause” that prevents pharmacists from sharing price information with their customers.
At the moment a pharmacist can’t tell a customer that if they paid out-of-pocket without using their insurance the drug would be cheaper. Currently, the pharmacy benefit managers are pocketing the difference between the price of the drug and the prescription co-pay the customer is being charged.
“This bipartisan legislation outlaws anti-consumer practices that have contributed to rising prescription drug prices and led to Connecticut residents being price gouged at the pharmacy counter,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said the legislation is intended to protect consumers.
“Pharmacists should not be prohibited from disclosing relevant information about the cost of treatment options,” Fasano said. “At the end of the day this is about making healthcare more affordable for Connecticut residents and protecting our consumers.”
Days earlier, Looney and Fasano were telling Insurance Commissioner Katharine Wade in a letter to stop trying to change the language in the bill to something they felt was favorable to the insurance industry. Wade is a former lobbyist for Cigna and her husband still works at the company.
On Monday, Looney and Fasano sent Wade a letter saying that she had inserted herself in proposing draft language in an “attempt to influence pending legislation in which Cigna, your former employer and your husband’s current employer, has a direct financial interest.”
Malloy defended Wade and the role she took in trying to change the legislation and called Looney and Fasano’s claims regarding Wade “breathless and incredulous.”
At the end of his letter Wednesday Malloy invited Looney and Fasano to create “an environment where employers can predict the landscape” and “where we don’t have to worry about major employers pulling up stakes for supposedly greener pastures.”