by Christian Wade
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has unveiled a raft of proposed health care reforms he says will cut medical costs and make care more affordable.
Lamont has filed a pair of bills that, if approved by the state Assembly, would ban the use of anti-competitive health care contracting practices, improve transparency in pricing for medical treatments, cap out-of-network insurance charges, and join a multi-state bulk purchasing program to lower prescription drug costs, among other changes.
Lamont said the legislation is aimed at improving competition in the state’s health care sector, eliminating unnecessary charges, reducing medical costs, and increasing health care affordability for consumers. He pointed to a recent Gallup poll showing 38% of Americans put off health care needs in 2022, the highest level recorded by the polling firm.
“We simply can no longer afford not to take action,” he said in a statement. “These bills I’m proposing tackle this complex problem from multiple angles, and I am calling on all parties – insurers, hospitals, doctors, employers, and consumers – to join with me in working on solutions for the people of Connecticut.”
One proposal seeks to reel in costs that often get tacked on to consumers’ medical bills, such facility fees that charge patients for the use of medical and hospital offices during treatments, which Lamont officials say could save consumers $400 million a year.
The other proposal focuses on eliminating anticompetitive practices in the healthcare industry, which Lamont officials say are contributing to the high medical costs. The legislation would limit out-of-network costs for inpatient and outpatient services to 100% of the Medicare rate for the same service in the same geographic area, among other provisions.
Another provision of the proposals would require pharmaceutical representatives to complete training, register with the state, and disclose information about drug costs. Lamont administration officials say aggressive marketing practices prevent prescribers from getting clear information about the drugs they prescribe and generic alternatives.
Dr. Deidre Gifford, executive director of the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy, said while the state’s healthcare system ranks among the best in the nation, the cost of care puts medical treatment out of reach for many low income residents and those without health insurance.
“It is clear that hospital inpatient, hospital outpatient, and retail pharmacy costs are the largest contributors to the health care affordability problem,” she said. “Health system consolidation and lack of competition is also contributing.”
Earlier this month, Lamont pitched a plan to tap into federal pandemic relief funds to “erase” an estimated $2 billion in medical debt owed by the state’s residents.
The debt elimination proposal, which was included in Lamont’s $50.5 billion preliminary budget package, was modeled on a similar one that has been used by New York City, Chicago and other jurisdictions to reduce or totally eliminate medical debt.
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Christian Wade is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “Ned Lamont” by Ned Lamont. Background Photo “Hospital” by CDC.