2018 was a busy session for me and the General Assembly. Here’s a quick recap of what I was up to during the legislative session that ended in early May.
As Chairman of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, I spend most of my time on issues related to insurance and health care. My biggest priority on the committee this year was passing legislation dealing with prescription drugs price transparency. I’m proud to say my bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously - a rare feat in this divisive political climate.
Last October, we passed the first bipartisan budget in a decade. On the last night of this year’s session, we passed another bipartisan budget. This budget was a win for our community. It included new additional education funding, averted a large cut to Shore Line East and a restoration of the Medicare Savings Program - something I heard a lot about last year from local seniors. Passing back-to-back bipartisan budgets is proof of something I’ve always believed: that both parties can still work together, find compromise and come together in the best interest of the state.
Thank you for taking a few minutes to read my newsletter and, as always, please feel free to contact me with questions, comments or concerns.
Essential Health Benefits
Public Act 18-10 is a law I sponsored this year which requires individual and small employer group health insurance policies to cover 10 essential health benefits and prohibits the policies from including annual or lifetime limits on their dollar value. The benefits, which most policies must already cover under the federal Affordable Care Act, include ambulatory patient services, emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn health care, mental health and substance use disorder services, prescription drug coverage, rehabilitative services, laboratory services, preventive and wellness services, and pediatric services. The new law also requires insurance policies to cover contraceptive drugs, devices, and products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, including a 12-month supply when prescribed by a licensed physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse.
Groundbreaking Prescription Drug Reform
This year 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’s main components: 1) Requires drug companies to justify large price increases (20% in one year, 50% over three years), 2) 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, 3) 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 prescriptions and how we can ultimately lower their costs in the future. PA 18-41
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. After working hard for the last few months, I’m proud to say that the recently passed bipartisan budget included funding to reverse those cuts and preserve this important service. PA 18-81
In 2017, women earned 82% of what men earned. This is unacceptable. This year Connecticut became the eighth state in the country to pass pay equity legislation that attacks the wage gap by generally prohibiting employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history. PA 18-8, effective January 1, 2019
Combating the Skills Gap to Create Jobs
There are an estimated 13,000 unfilled manufacturing jobs in Connecticut right now that can’t be filled because of a lack of skilled workers. This year we established a new initiative, called “Apprenticeship Connecticut,” to develop workforce pipeline programs that train qualified entry-level workers for jobs with manufacturers and employers in sectors experiencing workforce shortages. PA 18-178, §§ 45 & 51, effective July 1, 2018
Dominant Aggressors in Domestic Violence Situations
In most cases when the police respond to a domestic violence call, both parties are arrested. This practice - known as dual arrest - disincentivizes the abused from seeking out help for fear of being arrested. A new law requires a police officer responding to a family violence call to arrest the person that the officer determines is the dominant aggressor. It establishes the factors a police officer must consider in determining who the dominant aggressor is, such as the need to protect domestic violence victims, whether one person acted to defend him- or herself or a third person, and the relative degree of any injury. The act does not prohibit dual arrests, but discourages them when appropriate. PA 18-5, effective January 1, 2019
Reducing Opioid Overprescribing
Since taking office I’ve made combating Connecticut’s opioid epidemic one of my top priorities. The largest driver of this epidemic is the overprescribing of opioids. That’s why I wrote and passed legislation in 2015 and 2016 to require doctors to double check a state database before prescribing and to limit all acute pain opioid prescriptions to seven days with exemptions for chronic pain. We still have a lot of work left to do in order to save lives but the Department of Consumer Protection recently announced Connecticut opioid prescriptions were down 17% in 2017 which shows that policies I’m proud to have worked on are having an impact.
Last fall, a gunman in Las Vegas used a rate of fire enhancement known as a bump stock to kill 58 people at an outdoor concert. A law we passed on a bipartisan basis this year makes it a class D felony for anyone to sell, transfer, purchase, possess, use, or manufacture a rate of fire enhancement. PA 18-29, most provisions effective October 1, 2018
Greenhouse Gas Reductions
Climate change is a real threat to our community and state in the form of sea level rise. The legislature passed a law establishing a new interim greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction requirement. Existing law requires the state to reduce its GHG emissions to a level that is at least 1) 10% below 1990’s emission level by 2020 and 2) 80% below 2001’s emission level by 2050. The new law requires the state to also reduce its emissions level to one that is at least 45% below 2001’s emissions level by 2030. PA 18-82