Special Legislative Session Includes Two Health Care Bills Introduced by Scanlon
When the Connecticut legislature convenes for a special session this month to consider four bills, State Representative Sean Scanlon (D-98) will have the distinction of having written and introduced two of them, both focusing on health care.
On recess for months due to the pandemic, the legislature will consider police accountability, absentee ballots, capping insulin costs, and telemedicine access; as co-chair of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee, Scanlon helped craft the latter two.
“The two bills that we’re going to consider...are both not ‘end-all, be-all,’ but good starts in the effort to improve Connecticut’s health care system. I don’t think that we can go back to normal when it comes to health care. We need to create the new normal,” said Scanlon.
The telehealth bill simply extends an executive order issued by Governor Ned Lamont earlier this year that helped health care providers more easily provide medical services and advice by phone or video call, something that Scanlon characterized as a no-brainer.
“Basically, everybody and their brother—including myself—probably used telehealth at least one time during the pandemic,” Scanlon said. “Telehealth cannot replace in person physical health care and nobody is trying to make that happen...but people who can talk to their provider...over the phone or over Zoom as opposed going into an office during the height of the pandemic, we want to make sure that’s easy.”
The insulin bill, which is analogous to legislation recently passed in other states as part of a national controversy concerning overcharging by pharmaceutical companies, would cap the cost of one month’s supply of the vital drug at $25.
It costs about $5 to make a vial of insulin, Scanlon said, but people in Connecticut are charged an average of $400 for that same vial.
The pandemic has shown specifically how important it is for vulnerable populations to have equal and affordable access to all the medicine and healthcare they need, Scanlon said.
One section of the bill would also create in “emergency access” program that allows pharmacists to dispense insulin without a prescription in situations where someone’s health or life might be at risk, and another section would make the drug available to people who might not be able to afford the $25, or those who are uninsured.
Though he said he has worked for this type of bill for around two years, Scanlon said that watching the pandemic disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic residents due to “a very fragmented and unfair and unequal health care system” has made bills like this significantly more urgent.
About 250,000 people in the state have diabetes, Scanlon said, with another large subsection of that coming from elderly populations.
With the median age in Guilford around 50 and almost a quarter of the town’s population over 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Scanlon said the bill is also addressing how seniors can access insulin.
For those on Medicare, Scanlon said the new bill would effectively lower their deductible by a significant degree, having the state begin covering the costs of prescription drugs well before the federal government would, with a a maximum of $1,000 paid by the individual.
The idea is to have Connecticut’s more vulnerable populations, those who are more likely to have “comorbidities”—other chronic diseases or underlying health conditions, which includes elderly and Black and Hispanic populations—will be better protected going forward.
“We...want to make sure that if we’re heading into a second wave of this virus, as every indication says that we are, we want to make sure that people who are having these comorbidities can start treating them so that if and when they get COVID, the impact of that disease will be less than it was previously,” Scanlon said.
A lawsuit filed by a collection of pharmaceutical companies saying this type of law is unconstitutional is currently making its way through the courts. Scanlon, who is seeking re-election in November, said he felt Connecticut’s lawmakers “have to act” regardless of any court challenge.
“I think it’s time we start prioritizing the needs of people in our communities over big pharmaceutical companies that get away with charging exorbitant prices and pretending that there’s no problem,” Scanlon said.