By Mary Daugherty Abrams
As Senate chair of the Public Health Committee, I know 2020 has been a challenging year for many across our nation and state due to the global pandemic, and the importance of having access to quality, affordable care has been top of mind for most. I have remained focused on finding solutions that will benefit Connecticut residents during this moment and in the future. That is why I am proud to say that, in Connecticut, we have passed legislation that increases access to care, while also bringing down costs.
COVID-19 has changed what a doctor’s appointment looks like. Telehealth has been, and will continue to be, an effective form of providing care to patients. This summer, amidst the pandemic, I voted for expansions to telehealth services in our state. Through this law, additional specialized physicians can also provide care to patients virtually and patients can turn their cameras off if they choose. Telehealth is a useful tool in addressing access barriers to care. Through telehealth, we are approaching the challenges presented by COVID-19 from an asset-based perspective to effectively serve more people. Our work is far from over, as these expansions only carry through March 2021, but I am eager to explore ways to utilize this resource during the 2021 legislative session.
This summer we also lowered the costs of insulin, capping them at $25 per month. Additionally, we capped diabetic equipment and supplies (such as blood glucose test strips, glucometers, lancets, and syringes) at $100 per month. These are necessary steps in the right direction for Connecticut residents living with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 34.2 million Americans have diabetes as insulin costs across the nation outpace the rate of inflation. Access in many instances comes down to costs, making tearing down cost barriers essential for individuals in our state. My hope is this legislation not only increases access for people who were once completely priced out, but also ensures no one living with diabetes in our state ever has to ration out their insulin again. Additionally, we are poised to discuss solutions to bring down the costs of other life-saving medications for chronic conditions.
I am also proud to say we’ve tackled cost barriers for breast cancer screenings as well. In Connecticut, breast ultrasound out-of-pocket costs will be reduced, allowing more women to have comprehensive breast cancer screenings that include both a mammogram and breast ultrasound. Dense breast tissue, which 40-50% of women ages 40-74 have, can block abnormalities on a mammogram that an ultrasound can properly detect. Increasing access to breast ultrasounds will not only save women money, it will most importantly save lives as well. We know that prevention is key, so I strongly supported legislation that will lower these out-of-pocket costs for women in our state.
Bringing down costs for Connecticut individuals and families also brings down stress, providing peace of mind that the cost of care won’t hurt their wallets. Previously, cost would not be the only source of stress, as missing work with an illness, injury, or caring for a loved one for an extended period of time could potentially lead to an individual losing their job. Last year, I was proud to ensure Connecticut residents will no longer have to choose between their health and their paycheck, voting for the passage of Paid Family and Medical Leave. Connecticut workers will be able to take paid leave to care for newborns, family members with serious health conditions, their own serious health conditions and more for up to 12 weeks. This represents a much-needed shift in how our state’s workforce can now approach important decisions regarding their health. Paid Family and Medical Leave will benefit many, especially as our state continues to navigate the global pandemic.
Another resource helping our state’s residents during the COVID-19 pandemic is the Affordable Care Act. This landmark legislation has enabled millions to get health insurance, keep their children covered until the age of 26 and provides vital consumer protections for folks with pre-existing conditions. With over 50,000 Connecticut residents now with COVID-19 as their pre-existing condition, the ACA is vital to ensuring high premium costs do not stand in the way of their healthcare. What’s more, the Urban Policy Institute estimates over 20 million people will lose coverage if the law is repealed. Regardless of what transpires in Washington, D.C., I commit to the people of this state that I will fight to protect the all-important provisions outlined in this law.
While representing the 13th district in the state Senate over the past two years, we have consistently passed policies that benefit the public’s health. My commitment to the people of this state will never wane and I am eager to implement more policies that ensure every Connecticut resident has access to the affordable, quality care they deserve.
Democrat Mary Daugherty Abrams is seeking re-election as state senator of the 13th District.