Gov. Ned Lamont announced last week that he would spend $20 million to reduce medical debt, but he was quiet about what other health reforms might be part of his policy vision.
On Wednesday that budget detailed some but not all of his other health policy proposals. His budget would provide $2.66 million over the next two years to improve the prescription monitoring and reporting system, and another $4.7 million will be used to unwind the public health emergency.
Additionally, the budget allocates $34.4 million to be used over the next two years to help close the affordability gap for those who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to purchase a subsidized plan on Access Health CT. Enrollment in the Covered CT program is expected to increase from 25,000 to 40,000 over the next year.
Not included in the budget are several other proposals that Lamont’s administration say attempt to tackle the high cost of health care.
Lamont’s budget director Jeffrey Beckham said there will also be a proposal to make sure people aren’t paying additional facility fees for having procedures or services done at some medical offices owned by large hospital groups. The issue, according to Lamont officials, costs residents $400 million a year in fees not covered by health insurance plans.
And he wants to make it easier for insurance companies to negotiate with medical providers so that patients aren’t paying unnecessary out-of-network costs. Another piece of legislation would create penalties for health care organizations that eliminate services for patients.
A number of rural hospitals recently asked the state for permission to close their maternity wards, which they essentially already closed before applying to the state for a waiver.
Finally, Lamont is proposing a pharmaceutical buying consortium with other states like Washington, Oregon and Nevada. The governor is also proposing giving consumers information about prescription drug increases so that consumers have knowledge about who is doing what with drug prices, Beckhman said.
He said it would also require drug marketers to register with the state.
While the administration said the bills won’t be online until Thursday, there’s nothing to specifically address the 13% average increase in the cost of health insurance.
“I think that does tackle the issue of health insurance,” Beckham said about the above proposals.
Sen. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, who co-chairs the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, said he knows the governor wants to go big when it comes to tackling the cost of health care, but he didn’t hear that in the governor’s budget address Wednesday.
“I heard at the end he wanted people to step up and hopefully people step up this year,” Lesser said. “I’m ready to do the work. The committee is.”
Lesser said the legislature is ready to step up and tackle the issue even if the governor isn’t ready.
“I heard the governor say a lot of things, but we need to translate that into legislative action,” Lesser said.
Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said he was disappointed not to see reinsurance in the budget.
He said getting the waiver to pay the most expensive health insurance claims could lower health insurance by 30%. He said if the state spent $90 million it would essentially lower everyone’s health insurance premiums by $500 per month for the average family of four.
“That’s real money,” Kelly said. “We can do this.”
He said if you want to talk about affordable health care that’s what the Republicans would propose.
“That’s something that I think we could do,” Kelly added.