2019 Connecticut legislative session – what happened and what didn’t happen

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Connecticut’s General Assembly debated an unusually large number of health-related proposals this year. Some were new and some have been debated for years. Some passed, some were rejected, and some are on hold for next year. As of this writing, only the minimum wage increase bill has been signed into law by the Governor. The others are making their way to his desk.

Healthcare legislation that passed

The final state budget includes important health provisions including

  • a partial restoration of HUSKY coverage for working parents
  • certification of community health workers, and
  • several measures to improve the quality of care in Connecticut.

After years of debate, a bill to raise the age to purchase tobacco products and e-cigarettes to 21 passed on the final day of the session.

Also after years, a bill to allow the practice of dental therapy passed this year. Dental therapists are dental hygienists with at least 18 months of additional training. Dental therapy is “performing educational, preventive, and therapeutic services.” Under the new law dental therapists must practice under the supervision of a dentist and only in public health settings. Licensure of dental therapists has reportedly expanded access to quality dental care in other states.

Under a new law, the minimum wage in Connecticut will rise to $15 in 2023. This bill has been signed by the Governor. There is growing evidence about the health benefits of increasing the minimum wage.

The legislature passed paid family and medical leave benefits giving workers up to 12 paid weeks off to care for a new baby or seriously ill loved one beginning in 2021.

What didn’t pass

After several iterations, policymakers ran out of time to craft a public option health insurance option. Unfortunately, associated good provisions also didn’t make the deadline. The final version would have allowed importation of drugs from Canada providing significant relief from the greatest driver of rising healthcare costs in Connecticut. Also lost was a tax on prescription opioids, a proposal for reinsurance that could stabilize premiums, and an ambitious, complex and probably premature reporting system on healthcare costs.

Other health-related proposals this year that didn’t pass include a general sugary beverage tax to lower obesity rates, a Connecticut individual mandate, legalizing recreational marijuana use, and removing religious exemptions for childhood vaccine requirements. Any or all of these concepts could come back again next year.