When the pandemic began, LaVita King of Bridgeport worried about how she would continue to see her behavioral health therapist and primary care physician at Southwest Community Health Center. She lives close enough to walk to the federally qualified health center but didn’t feel comfortable leaving her home in those early days, let alone venturing into a medical office. But she’s been able to access care through phone and video chats. “For me, it’s been such a lifesaver, such a blessing,” said King, 69. “Otherwise, I would not have been able to talk to my behavioral health therapist for this whole entire time.
Thousands of consumers statewide are experiencing sticker shock at the pharmacy this year after increases in deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses for employer-sponsored insurance, forcing some to choose between their health and their finances. Since 2003, drug costs in Connecticut have increased faster than prices across the nation, reports the nonprofit Connecticut Health Policy Project. The advocacy group also found that Connecticut residents spend more per person on prescriptions than residents in all states except Delaware and that rate is rising much faster than in other states. According to the State Comptroller’s Office, the total net costs of prescription drugs in the state employee health plan rose 29 percent, from $257.6 million in 2014 to $332.3 million in 2017, with diabetes drugs the most expensive therapeutic class. Some of the companies to hike prices on dozens of medications by more than 9 percent this year include Allergan Plc, Insys Therapeutics Inc., Horizon Pharma Ltd., and Teva Ltd, according to Jefferies LLC, a New York-based investment advisory firm.
Seventeen lawmakers are asking the state’s insurance commissioner for a fair and thorough review of two pending colossal health insurance mergers and a study on how they could affect Connecticut jobs. “The proposed Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers are likely to have a negative impact on both the cost and quality of care in Connecticut, permanently changing our state’s health care system for patients, physicians, and other stakeholders,” according to the lawmakers’ letter sent to Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade. In a conference call Wednesday, legislators led by state Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield, said, that the “mega-mergers” could drive up consumer costs, concentrating more than 64 percent of the Connecticut health insurance market in their hands and restricting provider networks. Legislators, in the letter, asked Wade to hold multiple public hearings across the state, grant consumer advocates intervenor status in the proceedings and commission a study of the impact the mergers would have on consumers in terms of health care cost and quality. Also, they want a review of how the mergers would impact Connecticut jobs. Haddad said there could be increases in deductibles, premiums and out-of-pocket costs and restrictions to provider choice as a result of the mergers.
Struggles with unemployment, food insecurity and unstable housing can take a serious toll on individuals’ health, and stronger social supports could play a key role in improving their well-being, according to an advocacy group. While national health reform and the Affordable Care Act have focused largely on improving access to and the quality of health care, socioeconomic factors – like housing, employment and food security – play a larger role in someone’s overall health than clinical factors, according to the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “Health is affected by many other things, not just whether you have access to a doctor, access to health care,” said Jill Zorn, senior policy officer at the foundation. “If you’re really interested in improving health, it’s not just about clinical care.”
In fact, just 20 percent of a person’s health is attributed to clinical are, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Another 10 percent is attributed to physical environment, 30 percent to health behaviors and 40 percent – the largest share – is tied to socioeconomic factors, according to the CDC.