Health Concerns Drive Bipartisan Action In General Assembly Special Session

Reporter’s Notebook

It might not augur a forever-movement toward bipartisanship in the Connecticut legislature, but public health was an overwhelmingly unifying issue at the recently completed special session of the General Assembly.

Unlike the heated and divided vote in favor of a package of law enforcement reforms, as reported earlier in the Easton Courier, the special session easily adopted bills dealing with absentee voting, the cost of insulin, and telehealth care.  

State Rep. Anne Hughes and State Sen. Tony Hwang, representing Easton in the special session, voted with the majority on all three bills.

The ballot measure temporarily adds concern about contracting coronavirus to the sickness-criteria in the Connecticut Constitution for absentee voting in the November general election. That change mirrors the criteria for absentee voting set in place by Gov. Ted Lamont’s executive order for the Aug. 11 state primary voting.

For the November election, a New York Times analysis projects that 76% of American voters will be able to vote by absentee ballot, which the analysis claims would be highest such percentage in U.S. history and would likely double absentee voting compared to the 2016 national election. 

The special-session tally in favor of the ballot bill was 144-2 in the House of Representatives and 35-1 in the Senate. Making the expansion of the sickness-criteria permanent would require a state constitutional amendment, which has not garnered enough legislative support in the past.

In addition to sickness, the state constitution currently authorizes legislative exceptions to in-person voting for absence from home city or town, physical disability, or because of religious tenets.

Continuing with health-related legislation, the special session enacted “An Act Concerning Diabetes and High Deductible Health Plans.” It was adopted in the House of Representatives by a vote of 142-5 and in the Senate by a vote of 35-1.

The measure would cap the price of insulin at $25 a month for those on state health plans, while setting a ceiling of $100 a month for supplies related to the taking of insulin. As well, a study would be launched under the legislation, regarding an income-based program for people with diabetes who cannot afford insulin.

One-in-four people with diabetes are rationing insulin because of its cost, which currently averages $5,700, an increase of $3,100 from its previous yearly high, according to a Yale University study that was entered into the Senate debate on the insulin measure.

“An Act Concerning Telehealth” passed in the House of Representatives, 145-0, and in the Senate, 35-0 with one abstention.  The legislation, which runs through March 15, 2021, would expand the number of professionals authorized to provide telehealth care, raging from behavioral therapists to dentists; permit audio-only care; and require insurance coverage for telehealth equal to office visits. 

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