2018 Session Recap
2018 was a busy session for me and the legislature. As chairman of the Insurance and Real Estate committee, I spent most of my time this term on health care issues. Here’s a quick recap of what I was up to during the legislative session that ended last week:
Another Bipartisan Budget
Last October, we passed the first bipartisan budget in a decade. Last Wednesday, with two hours left in the session, I’m proud to say we passed another bipartisan budget.
This budget was a win for our community. It included new additional education funding, no new taxes and a restoration of the Medicare Savings Program — something I heard a lot about last year from local seniors.
Even in these crazy political times, passing two bipartisan budgets proves what I’ve always believed — that Democrats and Republicans still can and should work together to solve our big problems.
Groundbreaking prescription drug reform
In January, I teamed up with State Comptroller Kevin Lembo to introduce groundbreaking legislation to bring transparency to prescription drug pricing for the first time. This was the hardest bill I’ve worked on and I’m so proud that it passed both the House and Senate unanimously!
Our bill has four main components:
- Requires drug companies to justify large price increases (20% in one year, 50% over three years)
- Makes Connecticut the first state in the nation to require pharmacy benefit managers — the middlemen between drug companies and insurance companies — to disclose how much money they take in from drug company rebates and how much they then retain vs. pass on to consumers
- Requires insurance companies to disclose new data about drug spending — the top 25 drugs on their plans, the top 25 drugs with increased prices on their plans, and how much drug prices impacted premiums
With this new information, we can finally understand what is driving the cost of your drugs and how we can ultimately lower their costs in the future.
Protecting Essential Health Benefits
The most popular provision of the Affordable Care Act is the Essential Health Benefits — a list of ten services all insurance plans must cover. Given the numerous attempts to repeal the law in Washington, we wanted to ensure that no matter what happens to the ACA these benefits would be protected for all Connecticut residents.
The bill — which passed both chambers — also included a protection of the ACA’s requirement that contraception be covered without copay and a new provision that women be able to access a twelve month supply of contraception.
Preserving Shore Line East Service
In January the DOT announced they would be ending weekend and off-peak service on Shore Line East as of July 1. The day after the announcement, I assembled a bipartisan group of elected officials from the shoreline to oppose these short-sighted cuts. I spent the last few months working to oppose these cuts and I’m proud to say that the recently-passed bipartisan budget included funding to reverse those cuts and preserve this important service.
Continuing the fight against the opioid epidemic
Two years ago I worked with my friend Sue Kruczek — a Guilford resident who lost her son Nick to an overdose — to make Connecticut just the second state in the nation to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days.
This year we got data back that showed our law is working and that the total number of prescriptions written are down 30% in Connecticut. These powerful drugs still play a big and legitimate role in pain management but over-prescribing is the leading cause of the opioid epidemic and I’m glad to see we are making progress combating the root of the problem.
Parity for those who need prosthetic limbs
My friend Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. introduced a bill this year to require insurance companies to cover prosthetic limbs. Brenda Novak of Branford (pictured above) lost her leg in a tragic accident and had to pay $21,000 out of pocket for a prosthetic leg. Under this bill, insurance companies must cover 80% of the cost which is in line with what Medicare does. I was proud to lead passage of this bill in my committee and then in the House. Here I am with Brenda and Herb Kolodny, two incredible activists who spent days at the capitol lobbying my colleagues, after the bill passed the House.
Strengthening our gun safety laws
Like so many in our community, I was inspired by the students in Guilford and Branford who led walk outs to protest inaction on common sense gun safety legislation in Washington. I was even more inspired by the huge crowd (estimated at 3,000 people) who showed up to the March for Our Lives on the Guilford Green.
This session, we joined several other states in passing a ban on bump stocks — an attachment that enables a semiautomatic rifle to fire faster and was used by the gunman in Las Vegas when he killed 58 people at a concert.
Equal pay for equal work
I was proud to vote to make Connecticut the fifth state in the nation to pass pay equity legislation. The law prohibits employers from asking job candidates about their salary history, a major driver of the existing pay gap between men and women.