Face the Facts: Confronting Rising Health Care Costs in Conn.

Face the Facts: Confronting Rising Health Care Costs in Conn.

Insurance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Kerry Wood (D-Rocky Hill) joins NBC Connecticut’s Mike Hydeck with his plans to deal with rising health care costs when the new session begins in January.

Mike Hydeck: Here in Connecticut right now we’re dealing with runaway inflation, the threat of a possible recession, and chances are, if your health insurance premiums haven’t gone up yet, they’ll will do so very soon. The state signed a double-digit increase earlier this year. Lawmakers say, however, that a new session will eventually come to work on a new solution. Representative Kerry Wood joins me now. The Rocky Hill Democrat is the co-chair of the insurance committee. Representative Wood, welcome to Face the Facts.

Kerry Wood: Hi, thanks for inviting me.

Mike Hydeck: The health sector is therefore notoriously opaque. The cost of treatment can vary greatly from hospital to hospital, which in turn affects what we pay for health care. What are some of the goals of lawmakers as we head into the new session when it comes to making health care more affordable?

Kerry Wood: Well, the good news, in the last session of 2022, which ended in May of this year, we passed what is called a healthcare benchmark. And for the first time in our state’s history, we will be collecting information about our health care system costs and our pharmaceutical costs. It’s really important. It sounds like ‘hey, why didn’t we do this, you know, before?’ But we put this in place so we can gauge where we’re spending and the data tells us where we can do better. For example, if we spend a ton of money on stage four cancer, that means we don’t catch the cancer early. And we should spend more money on primary care and early detection. So it’s a great piece of legislation that we’ve passed, and that data will come to us in the next session to help us determine where we’re going to focus on our legislation. Also, we need to provide more options in our health insurance plan. You’ve recently heard that some ConnectiCare small group carriers, in particular, have exited the small group market. And it’s really for our small businesses. We need more competition in this space. And I will introduce a bill that I introduced in previous years and which was not successful. But hopefully it will gain traction this year as association health plans and allow small businesses to pool their…

Mike Hydeck: And I hope it will. Let me ask you a question. How does the fact that insurance companies are headquartered here in Connecticut affect decision-making in Hartford? Not only are they powerful citizens of Connecticut, but they employ a lot of our friends and family and a lot of people, you know, I imagine in your day-to-day life are employed by one of these insurance companies. How does this affect the decisions you have to make?

Kerry Wood: It just means that we have some of the smartest and brightest minds at the table with us when it comes to health insurance matters. It also means we’ve been able to do things like create a market for captive insurers. This is also the bill we passed in the last session. And it allows the captive insurance industry to domicile with tax advantages here in Connecticut. And as a result, we have grown this sector exponentially. And it’s growing because Connecticut is the capital of insurance. And we have some of the best and brightest minds here, both actuaries and lawyers in this field. So I would like to continue to work with our industries, our biggest industry like insurance, and ask them how we can, you know, grow them and continue to hire here in the state.

Mike Hydeck: So let’s talk about the Healthcare Transparency Act. It was supposed to go into effect on July 1, giving consumers more information. Obviously, the data that the state will collect will play into this. Five hundred items, however, should have prizes from time to time and they will continue to be awarded year after year on January 1st. How and why is it not in full swing when it started at the federal level, do you think?

Kerry Wood: Such a good question. Price transparency is one of our biggest concerns on the Insurance and Real Estate Committee. We believe this is a way to allow consumers to better decide where to spend their money. And these hospitals are supposed to be in compliance. And I think we need to discuss at the legislative level, if they’re not compliant, what kind of remedies we have to make sure they’re compliant. Because I don’t know about you, but I really want to move towards a system that provides high quality care for the best, best price I can buy. So I think it’s really important for consumers to have this information so that they can make informed decisions when purchasing health care.

Mike Hydeck: You can go there, whether it’s your doctor, whether it’s your insurance company, it’s all in secret language. No one knows what the codes are on the invoice. Sometimes the insurance company and the doctor don’t agree on which code should cover, opt for which service. Does it play? And can this be changed, in your opinion?

Kerry Wood: Yes, this comes into effect in May of this year, that electronic filing and electronic data must be transmitted to the State of Connecticut so that when you go to another health system, your files are all in electronic form. I’m sure we all remember going to the doctor at some point and asking him to pull out a chart. It’s going to be a big change. But we’re going to move in that direction to make it easier for patients and their providers to deliver, I think the end result is the highest quality of care. And that means having that data in an electronic format accessible on any system.

Mike Hydeck: And that anyone can read and interpret because the code 0025 could mean an MRI in one place, and could mean something completely different elsewhere. It must be uniform. And it’s a tough data situation. Can the state fund something like this?

Kerry Wood: The state doesn’t need to fund something like this at this point as we have a system in place where compliance should be in place by May 2023. If not I’m sure that we will be asked to come to the table for help, but I am confident that health care providers and insurance companies can make this happen without the state having to intervene.

Mike Hydeck: Alright, rep Kerry Wood from Rocky Hill. Thank you so much for joining us on Face the Facts. We have to leave it there. We appreciate your time.

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