What action(s) will you take to reduce out-of-pocket drug costs and reduce the impact of the cost of prescription drugs on taxpayers and insurance premiums?
I have actively been working to find ways to reduce the cost of prescription drugs on the Insurance Committee. I've been part of many sessions discussing what we can do legislatively. It is important to note, Pharma is mainly governed at the Federal level. I am working to find a way to regionalize our buying power in the state which should help to reduce overall costs and hold Pharma accountable for their pricing structure.
In these inflationary times, what will you do to help ensure that Connecticut’s middle-income retirees on fixed incomes are able to keep more of their hard-earned money in their pockets?
I am submitting legislation to remove state income tax on social security and also looking to see what we can do to limit property tax - based on income - for our senior populace.
How do you plan to address the growing long-term care workforce crisis in the state?
In the Children's Mental Health bill we worked to include workforce development and incentives to retain and draw behavioral health professionals to the state. I am continuing to work with the Governors workforce development council to find ways to retain and incentivize healthcare workers to the state - including long-term care workers. With that in mind, we have to recognize that Connecticut is one of the most expensive states to live in, that is a deterrent to new young professionals. If we cannot contain the costs of living in the state we won't be able to revitalize our workforce.
Gas prices are higher than ever, which is difficult for older adults on fixed incomes. Yet, alternatives to cars in Connecticut are limited. What will you do to help older adults access other forms of transportation?
We need to look at expansion of programs, such as dial a ride, for our senior populace. In my more rural towns there are no transportation opportunities for seniors or people with disabilities other than dial a ride and those services are very limited. As our population ages we need to evaluate the resources available to them in their home community.
What are the two most urgent problems facing Connecticut within the context of climate change and the environment, and what will you propose to solve them?
It is my opinion that we need to have regional climate initiatives. The legislation that was passed this last session is very cost prohibitive and will continue to make Connecticut more expensive than surrounding states. If we were to enact all of the initiatives that were proposed and none of the states around us were to do any then we would not be improving our climate as a whole. We need to get together to determine a course of action for the region and put forth legislation that will help the world, not just Connecticut.
How can Connecticut's education systems create better outcomes for students in low-income communities?
I'm concerned about the outcomes in all of our towns, not just the low income communities. Our test scores have dropped across the state and that is concerning. Whether it's the suburban areas or the low-income communities we have to consider the whole student when we're looking at success. Teaching in a rural environment is not the same as a city, what each child needs to be successful differs and we need teachers who understand and focus on adapting their teaching to meet that child where they are. That may mean different programs in different areas and more personalization. All of these things require staffing (teaching and support) that can handle this volume of work and variation of technique. The problem is, the larger portion of the education costs fall on the town residents and the states funding formula does not consider their constitutional responsibility to educate every child in the state. We need to determine how we want to educate our children and then we have to fund it.
Pedestrian deaths spiked a few years ago and remain high, and it's fairly clear that driver behavior, such as distracted driving, is only getting worse despite significant efforts by law enforcement to stop it. How can Connecticut's streets be made safe for pedestrians and bicyclists?
If we want to control crime in any fashion, juvenile crime, distracted driving, wrong way drivers, violent crime, etc, we have to give the police the power to arrest people and our judicial system has to enforce the laws in a way where people consider the consequence before committing a crime. This is not to say we should "lock everyone up" or anything as draconian as that, but the punishment for the crime has to be seen as a deterrent. Programing - rehabilitation - restorative justice, early intervention, community involvement with law enforcement, all of these things need to be considered. If there is no consequence, there is no reason to stop the behavior.
How should the state and its school districts deal with COVID-19 going forward?
Children need to be in school. If nothing else, that is one of the main things we should take away from the lessons COVID taught us. The CDC policy now states if you are not symptomatic you don't have to test or quarantine for simple exposure. I think it's important that we are following that guidance and giving kids every opportunity to be in school in person and learning in the most suitable environment.
What should be done on the state level to further address Connecticut's lack of affordable housing? Do you support, for example, mandating or incentivizing towns and cities to alter their zoning codes to be friendlier to affordable housing?
I do not support mandating towns and cities to alter their zoning. Incentivizing - yes, mandating - no. If the state is serious about expanding affordable housing options outside of the cities then it needs to invest in good, solid transportation opportunities that would allow people of lower or middle income levels to live in more rural areas.
What can be done to prevent excessive consolidation of the healthcare industry and the loss of services – or, in some cases, the loss of small hospitals themselves – in the state's rural areas?
This is a very complex question and is really two different things. One - the loss of small community hospitals is devastating to our towns and should not be allowed to happen. The buying up of these community hospitals to then immediately - or shortly after - close down maternity, then OP procedures, then IP stays etc is decreasing accessibility to our more rural residents. These services are vital to communities and cannot be allowed to happen. And two - the consolidation itself. When a large hospital provider buys a small community hospital they have to submit a Certificate of Need (CON) and they have to provide rationale on why this consolidation is a good thing. The state is supposed to review those CON's several years after the purchase to ensure the hospital is doing what it intended, to my knowledge, we have not reviewed the CON's for several of the latest mergers. We need the Attorney Generals office and the Office of Healthcare Strategy to do the reviews and determine if the hospital has met its obligation. If we've seen a reduction of service or accessibility the CON needs to be reversed and reparations need to happen. The all claims payer database has shown we are seeing fewer instances of care with higher cost of those incidents from our larger hospital providers, that is not increased accessibility or affordability, it's the exact opposite and we need to do a better job of monitoring and not allowing profitability over people. There also needs to be powers put in place that enable insurance companies to push back on network contracting to better contain the cost of these large providers. The cost of care provided is the largest portion of healthcare costs, as hospital networks expand they have more power to insist on increases that exceed the consumer price index.
Do you think the state's two major electric utilities (Eversource and United Illuminating) are sufficiently regulated? If not, what measures would you take to ensure that consumers are protected to the greatest extent possible against prolonged loss of services and unfair rate increases?
I fear there is so much regulation that we've lost track of what we're trying to do. Several of the increases in rate have to do with legislation that is passed and what that legislation does to the rates. We need to review the current rate structure, recognize the impact of legislation, review if that legislation is doing what was intended and make changes where needed to stop or minimize the increase in service delivery rates. Then, once we've established a clear picture of where we are trying to go, we should ensure rate increases are tied to service levels that can be documented and explained.
What is your position on whether Connecticut should open its election primaries to unaffiliated voters?
I am not sure how something like this would work. The idea of a primary is that the members of a party select who they want to be on the ballot to represent them, if a vote is unaffiliated and has not selected a party I'm not sure they should be picking the person who leads a party they are not part of. I would need more information on what is proposed and how it would work before rendering an opinion on this.
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