Take a quick look at the medical section of GoFundMe or other crowdfunding websites in Connecticut and it paints a harrowing picture of what is wrong with our healthcare system. Why are so many Connecticut residents relying on the generosity of strangers for their medical expenses?
We are encouraged to rely on insurance providers to fund medical expenses, but there are many cases where extremely large sums must be paid out of pocket. For disadvantaged families, a single large medical bill can cause them to fall behind on rent and other bills. Some are pushed into bankruptcy.
Many low-income families struggle to afford the most basic and necessary forms of healthcare. According to a 2018 study, 20% of Connecticut households reported either skipping doses of medication or cutting pills in half due to the high cost of medication. In this same study, 81% of people surveyed agreed that drug companies were charging too much money and 80% agreed or strongly agreed that the healthcare system needs to change. Such high healthcare costs can lead to many adverse health outcomes, and it is made worse when people fear visiting their provider because of the costs they may incur.
Some of these adverse effects include complications due to unfilled prescriptions, and the lack of access to healthcare. When health conditions are left undiagnosed and untreated, they become more severe and lead to more complications in treatment. The high medical costs are creating a snowball effect where residents who are unable to afford treatment become progressively more unwell and their health problems become worse which makes them more expensive.
Because of the outcry from residents about the rising expenses of healthcare, there are a number of proposals for the state of Connecticut that can improve healthcare costs and outcomes. In the 2022 legislative session, Governor Ned Lamont resubmitted his bill to lower prescription drug costs and make insurance more affordable. Lamont points out that if the prices of prescription medication were reduced to double the cost of the same medication in Canada, residents would save more than 35% on prescription medication. The notion that reducing our prices in Connecticut to double that in Canada would save such a significant percentage is further evidence of a major failure in the healthcare system.
Ultimately, the bill was not passed which shows that we are still far from solving this problem. Governor Lamont also proposed, and the legislature approved, a benchmarking study to evaluate the underlying factors that are driving medical costs up. By understanding the problem better, we have a higher likelihood of taking effective action to decrease the price of medical care.
For many residents, it can be difficult to evaluate all options for their treatment and compare prices when the information is not easily available. One of the most effective possible actions would be to prohibit anti-competitive contracts between insurers. The American Medical Association reported that more than 74% of health insurance markets are concentrated. This means that they can set their own prices without the fear of competition.
A shockingly large percentage of the Connecticut population are extremely dissatisfied with the healthcare system in place. High healthcare costs benefit no one except the institutions profiting off of them. For the individual, high healthcare costs are something they simply cannot deal with when they are already living paycheck to paycheck. It places a significant financial, emotional, and physical burden on low-income households.
Given the gravity of the situation, it is essential that Governor Lamont reintroduces a package of measures to ease the burden of healthcare costs on Connecticut residents. We need to see better health outcomes and much greater satisfaction from residents of Connecticut.
Lavinia Labrias is a senior at Sacred Heart University, majoring in Health Science with a concentration in Public Health.