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.
Forty-five percent of Connecticut adults in a survey released Wednesday reported that they have been diagnosed with a chronic disease such as diabetes, hypertension, asthma, heart disease or cancer. That rate was “very high,” said Frances Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. She said she was also struck that 28 percent of adults aged 18 to 44 reported in the new Connecticut Health Care Survey that they have one of those serious illnesses. “With so many people reporting chronic illnesses and their complications, we have to have better access to care,’’ she said. Six health foundations released the results of a telephone survey of 5,447 adults conducted between June 2012 and February 2013.
Why does the U.S. health care system rank in the bottom third of developed nations, even though we spend twice as much as any other country? According to Shannon Brownlee, senior vice president of the Lown Institute and author of the book, “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer,” the crux of the problem lies within the doctor-patient relationship. “We have a dysfunctional system in this country that is largely focused on doing more,” Brownlee said. “In our headlong rush to do a lot, fast, we forget about talking to patients — about what their prospects are, what the treatment options are, what the side effects are . .
What if you needed a hip replacement and could click through a list of area hospitals to compare costs and outcomes for the procedure? That kind of transparency of information might go a long way towards improving quality of care and lowering costs, a panel of experts suggested Monday at a forum on health care costs convened by the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut. “I look at the variance in some of the costs, when we’ve got three or four times the variance in cost for a hip (replacement), for the same hardware . . .
With health care in the headlines, the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut is hosting a public forum Monday at Quinnipiac University’s North Haven campus that will feature a panel of experts weighing in on the high costs of health care. The forum, “Drowning in Health Care Costs: All Hands on Deck,” features prominent author Steven Brill, whose 36-page cover story in Time magazine in February 2013 delved into the arbitrary and largely hidden system of hospital pricing. Brill will be joined by Patrick Charmel, president and CEO of Griffin Hospital in Derby, and Kevin Lembo, state comptroller. Journalist Susan Campbell, a contributor to the Connecticut Health I-Team, will moderate the discussion. The event is the first in a series of forums planned by the foundation and its parent organization, the Connecticut Health Advancement and Research Trust (CHART), to discuss health care challenges facing the state.
Health care reform, new Wall Street regulations and outrage over large pay packages are likely to put pressure on compensation for health insurance executives. But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. The highest-paid executive at each of the “Big Five’’ health insurers – UnitedHealth Group, Aetna Inc., WellPoint Inc., Humana Inc. and Cigna Corp. – made more than $8 million in 2012, according to filings this spring with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The CEO of EmblemHealth Inc., a nonprofit that owns ConnectiCare, also had total compensation at that level in 2011, the last year for which information is available.
Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted three years ago this week, Connecticut seniors have saved a total of $84 million on prescription drugs, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday. Connecticut Medicare recipients have saved an average of $1,174, according to the HHS’ press release. Nationally, HHS said the savings have hit more than $6 billion for 6.3 million people with Medicare since the ACA became law on March 23, 2010. Advocates say the health care law is making Part D prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing what is known as the “donut hole.” This is the gap in coverage where beneficiaries were paying the full cost of prescriptions out of pocket while also paying premiums.
Frances G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the announcement was good news. “This is one of the real advantages of the Affordable Care Act,’’ she said.