Week starts badly for Aetna, then focus quickly turns to Trump

Last week began badly for Aetna’s stock price when a federal judge rejected the company’s proposed merger with Humana. Judge John Bates said such a merger would “be likely to substantially lessen competition” in the Medicare Advantage market; and went on to say that Aetna withdrew from the Affordable Care Act exchanges in 17 counties “to evade judicial scrutiny of the proposed merger.”

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas / CTMirror.org

DCF Commissioner Joette Katz and Deputy Commissioner Fernando Muñiz testify on the agreement for DCF.

In Hartford, meanwhile, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to lock in $800 million in spending on the state’s child protection program took a decidedly bad hop before the state legislature. It’s budget committee rejected Malloy’s idea, even after Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz warned the move would cause the department, long under federal court supervision, to wind up back before a judge.

The governor responded the next day by giving the issue another bounce: The committee’s rejection of his proposal, Malloy said,  “was a mistake ….and no, I am not pulling it.”

Confirmania

Back in Washington, D.C., the tag team of Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy went to the mat for a former political opponent and multi-millionaire, World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon, President Trump’s nominee for head of the Small Business Administration. The senators, who defeated McMahon in consecutive senatorial elections, endorsed her appointment to the administration, calling her, in Blumenthal’s words, “an excellent fit for this agency.”

Blue State resistance

As might be predicted in a blue state, Connecticut officials appear to be chafing at some of President Trump’s newest initiatives against illegal immigrants and supposed ballot fraud.

After the commander-in-chief issued an executive order aimed at punishing so-called “sanctuary cities,” Gov. Malloy and State Attorney General George Jepsen both said they are, in Jepsen’s words, “committed to taking action within my authority to protect Connecticut residents whose rights are threatened by this or other actions of the Trump administration.”

Blumenthal, on Friday, told a packed room of sympathizers in Hartford that the president’s plan to withhold federal funds would be “illegal.” And in the opinion of one political scientist, previous federal court rulings – rulings sought by conservatives to oppose Obamacare – will probably stymie the president’s plan.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill will feel a little fallout from Trump’s call for an inquiry into his unsubstantiated claims of ballot fraud. She’ll have to deal with it as president of the National Association of Secretaries of State, a nonpartisan organization. A Democrat, Merrill said she nonetheless has company on the Republican side. “The Republican secretaries of state are as put off by the idea of a federal intervention in local elections as Democrats are,” she said.

Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, on the other hand, thinks it has dodged a Trump bullet, temporarily at least. Despite a presidential freeze on EPA grants and a gag order on bureaucrats, Connecticut learned it will still receive funds for its clean water and clean air funds.

Anyway,  the federal government’s is not the only enforcement game in town. Witness the collective efforts of the states’ attorneys general. Led by Jepsen’s office, a coalition formed through the the National Association of Attorneys General is pursuing a price-fixing case against at least six pharmaceutical companies. The Justice Department, now alerted to the issue, is following suit. Here’s the back story.

Local sales tax?

The governor’s recent mantra has been “no new taxes,” but Connecticut’s cities and towns – including Hartford, which is flirting with insolvency – are proposing a new 1 percent local sales tax as part of a comprehensive financial plan for the state.  The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities developed the idea with input from municipal leaders who currently rely mainly on property tax revenue. It has a wrinkle labor supporters might find awkward: Revenues from the new tax could not be used for raises or benefits for municipal employees.

Arielle Levin Becker / CTMirror.org

Karen Zaorski of Wolcott, whose 26-year-old son Raymond died from a cocaine overdose, holds a collage of pictures of people who died from drug use. She spoke during an event with state officials Thursday.

New response to opioid crisis

Connecticut public health officials predict about 900 people will die from accidental overdoses this year, and Gov. Malloy on Thursday announced a series of proposals to reduce that number. They include requiring physicians to prescribe opioids electronically rather than on paper; allowing visiting nurses to destroy unused medication; and allowing patients to add directives to their medical files indicating that they don’t want to be prescribed an opioid medication.

Now, at least, for those who survive an accidental overdose, there is a new attempt to prevent a second one.

 

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