From the High Plains Community Center cafeteria in Orange, state Senators James Maroney (D-Milford) and Matt Lesser (D-Middletown), who is also Senate Chair of the legislature’s Insurance and Real Estate Committee, held a prescription drug and long-term care forum. The state legislators were joined by Gerard O’Sullivan and Paul Lombardo from Connecticut’s Insurance Department, AARP Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach Anna Doroghazi, and T1 International Connecticut Chapter Leader Kristin Daniels, as they discussed legislative methods to get control of skyrocketing prescription drug and long-term care costs in Connecticut.

“The price of care in our state and country is completely out of control,” said Sen. Maroney. “This legislative session, we are committed to passing legislation that lessens the cost burden on Connecticut residents and working families. I am grateful to state Senator Matt Lesser, AARP, T1 International, the state's insurance department and those who attended tonight's important forum.”

The state Senate unveiled their policy priorities regarding healthcare this week in preparation for the 2020 legislative session. Session begins on Wednesday, February 5. Among the priorities was lowering the cost of prescription drugs. Additionally, the Senate discussed establishing a public option for health insurance, which was the brainchild of Sen. Lesser during the 2019 legislative session. The public option would create competition in the health insurance marketplace, thus bringing down prices for consumers. Sen. Lesser said the cost of care must come down.

“I was grateful to join my friend Senator Maroney in his district, to have the opportunity to hear how these critical insurance issues affect people in Orange,” said Sen. Lesser. “In 2020 I am serious about tackling the insulin affordability crisis, lowering the cost of prescription drugs — including with safe, affordable prescription drugs from Canada and helping people afford long term care insurance.”

Prices continue to rise at rapid rates. According to an RX Price Watch report, from the AARP Public Policy Institute, brand name drug prices increased more than twice as quickly as inflation in 2018. Additionally, according to the report, “For over a decade, annual brand name drug price increases have exceeded the general inflation rate by 2-fold to more than 100-fold.”

These unreasonable and exploitative price hikes specifically affect those with chronic ailments. The average annual cost for one brand name medication used on a chronic basis was more than $7,200 in 2018, almost four times higher than in 2006, according to the report. The numbers are even more damaging to an individual’s bottom line if they require insulin. According to an AARP report from August 2019, Lantus, a form of insulin used to treat diabetes, increased from $2,907 per year to $4,702 per year.

The price-gouging is also prevalent in long-term care. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) reports average annual spending of $100,000 for a nursing home, $45,000 for assisted living and $33,000 for in-home care. They also report the average premium is $2,050 per year for a man aged 55 and jumps to $2,700 for a woman of the same age. What's more, premiums can rise anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent, per the BPC.

These excessive prices have a real effect on Connecticut seniors and families. According to the Population Reference Bureau, Connecticut has the 14th oldest population in the country. This distinction makes long-term care a necessity for many as this insurance covers, among other things, the costs of a nursing home, assisted living or in-home care, according to the AARP.