Legislators hear voices calling for consolidation protections to lower healthcare costs

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Yesterday’s public hearing testimony was largely supportive of two bills to prohibit anti-competitive clauses in hospital system contracts with payers. Seventeen testimonies favored the bills, while eight opposed, mainly calling for more transparency and consistency in contracts. Several testimonies (here, here, here, here, and here) favoring the bills came from state residents and community organizations describing lived experience with the harm of high health system costs and skyrocketing premiums on underserved communities.

There is overwhelming evidence that provider consolidation into big health systems drives up prices for healthcare without improving quality. Connecticut’s health system is already very consolidated, and our high prices reflect the power of big health systems. Two lawsuits have been filed against Hartford Healthcare for anti-competitive behavior. Both the Governor and the Insurance Committee have proposed bills to prohibit the tools monopolies use, all-or-nothing and anti-tiering/anti-steering clauses, to jack up prices without improving quality.  

Other states have taken action to lower prices in consolidated markets like Connecticut’s with this legislation and it’s working to control insurance premiums. Last year, this same legislation passed the Insurance Committee unanimously and the Senate by 29 to 4. But it died on the House calendar.

As is the purpose of public hearings, revisions to the bills were suggested. Proposed revisions included increased transparency on standards for placement in better plan tiers, removing a proposed exemption for Accountable Care Organizations and others with value-based contracts (this would invalidate the law, as all large health systems would qualify), removing an application process for waivers from the law, removing an exemption of the state employee and Partnership plans, and allowing a private right of action.