Connecticut’s state budget is out of balance, reflecting the weakness in our state economy. Policymakers have been forced into compromising support for critical priorities, in healthcare and beyond.

There are a lot of reasons for the problem but soaring health costs, particularly for prescription drugs, are a significant drain. Connecticut spent $5.3 billion on prescriptions in 2014. If we can moderate those costs, even a bit, it could provide real relief for budgets across the state.

It’s just one way Connecticut can control costs without lowering access or quality of care.

Prescription drugs are the largest driver of health costs in our state. Connecticut residents spend more per person on prescriptions than residents of all but one other state, and those costs are growing faster here than in all but two other states.

Prescriptions consume almost a quarter of private health insurance spending in Connecticut and that rate is growing.

Over half of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug. One in five is taking four or more drugs and those Americans are at the greatest risk of skipping or cutting doses. Citizens of other industrialized countries pay far less for the same drugs. A large majority of Americans blame drug company profits for those high prices and want policymakers to control pharmacy costs.

While many costly new prescriptions are making people’s lives better, and some are cost effective over the long-term, we have to find ways to keep them affordable for consumers and for the entire system.

Connecticut’s Healthcare Cabinet has taken the last few months in a deep dive finding policy options to control costs responsibly, many being implemented or considered by other states.

Among the 27 options being considered are aligning prices of drugs with independent studies of their value to improve health, creating a state board to review extreme drug price hikes for possible action, passing negotiated discounts onto consumers, reimportation of safe drugs from Canada, and disclosure of drug industry funds to providers. There’s also proposals to allow providers to have critical conversations with their patients about the cost of drugs, financial assistance, thoughtful priorities for patients who can’t afford to fill all their prescriptions, and disclosure of drug industry funds to providers and patient groups.

The cabinet is taking public comment on the recommendations through January 15 and will discuss the options at their meeting the next morning.

Ellen Andrews, PhD, is the executive director of the CT Health Policy Project. Follow her on Twitter @CTHealthNotes.

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