Health care costs in Connecticut are rising faster than we can afford. People are paying too much, receiving too little, and too often do not have access to the quality care they need. With health care costs rising five times faster than inflation, our businesses are struggling to survive. Facing a weak marketplace, many employers are faced with the unacceptable choice of cutting employee benefits or cutting employees.
Today, the average family pays more than $13,000 for health insurance each year. With too many Connecticut residents unemployed, families around the state are struggling through difficult conversations about how to afford prescriptions and doctor's visits, while still putting food on the table or paying the rent. And, while insurance premiums are skyrocketing, the quality of our care is not.
The recent health reform legislation is a good first step. The new law will stop many of the insurance industry's most egregious practices, including pre-existing condition discrimination, canceling policies when someone falls ill, and using gender, age, and other discriminatory factors to charge higher premiums. However, the new law does not do enough to control the skyrocketing costs of care. Going forward, we must do more to protect consumers and ensure quality, affordable care for all Americans.
For twenty years as Attorney General, I have tirelessly defended Connecticut residents as both patients and taxpayers, fighting to ensure they receive the highest quality care at a fair and reasonable cost. I have taken on the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies, while advocating for the rights of Connecticut's patients:
* Challenging Illegal Drug Company Marketing Practices. I have stood up to pharmaceutical companies like Merck, Cephalon, and Eli Lilly accused of aggressively and fraudulently marketing drugs for unapproved uses, or providing kickbacks to doctors to influence prescribing decisions.
* Protecting Seniors from Fraud. Our seniors need an advocate when the health care industry seeks to take advantage of them. I have worked with patients and their doctors to resolve private collection lawsuits, to recover almost $740,000 from illegally billed services and improperly denied claims for seniors and other residents involved in disputes with managed care companies, as well as to access significant premium discounts to which they were entitled under the stimulus bill.
* Standing Up to Big Tobacco. The link between smoking and health problems is clear. And the state was paying the bill -- covering the health care costs for tobacco-related illnesses among its Medicaid patients. With other state Attorneys General, I took the lead and stood up to the tobacco industry. And when others said we'd never win, we did -- gaining an historic multi-state settlement that will mean $3.6 billion for Connecticut, and an end to deceptive marketing practices aimed at addicting kids. Since the settlement, youth smoking has dropped in Connecticut by 40% among high schoolers and 66% among middle schoolers.
* Fighting Public Health Threats. To avoid after-the-fact action, I also have worked to preemptively protect Connecticut's residents by helping to raise awareness of the health risks of dozens of public health issues ranging from avian flu to electronic cigarette nicotine delivery devices, consistently ensuring our citizens have access to the information, resources, and opportunities to preserve their health in the face of these risks.
I will expand on these efforts in the Senate. I will continue working to ensure that our citizens have access to the highest-quality care, while also taking on the special interests blocking real change to curb our exploding costs. Here are some of the actions we must take:
* Negotiating Prescription Drug Prices. Republicans and Democrats gave away the federal government's right to negotiate for lower drug prices in Medicare. The result? A $200 billion sweetheart deal for the drug companies paid for by taxpayers. If we're serious about cutting health care costs, we've got to get serious about negotiating down drug prices.
* Prohibiting Drug Company Exploitation of Dual Eligibles. When Congress created the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003, they shifted all nine million Medicare beneficiaries already receiving drugs under Medicaid onto the new, more expensive program. The result of this accounting maneuver? A $30 billion windfall for the drug companies to provide the same drugs to the same people.
* Eliminating Waste, Fraud and Abuse in Public Health Insurance Programs. I know we need to rein in the con artists taking advantage of our health insurance programs. As Attorney General, I've done it -- participating in dozens of suits to combat fraud and abuse that have successfully returned tens of millions to Connecticut taxpayers. The General Accountability Office ("GAO") estimated that in 2008, 10 percent of federal Medicaid claims -- nearly $33 billion -- were fraudulent. And the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that every $1 invested combating health care fraud allows taxpayers to recoup $1.75 in savings. Cutting this waste will rein in government spending and improve these programs at the same time.
* Ending the Medicare Part D "Donut Hole". More than 47,000 Connecticut residents fall in the Medicare Part D coverage gap that limits their reimbursements for certain prescription drug costs. The new health reform legislation will fully close this gap by 2020, but that is too slow for seniors who cannot afford out-of-pocket costs today. As your U.S. Senator, I will fight to quickly put an end to the donut hole, ensuring that no Connecticut seniors are forced to go without the medicines they need.