Congress passes expanded health care benefits in sweeping bill

On Friday, Congress passed a major inflation-targeting Democratic bill that would partially lower health care costs for those enrolled in the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. But as Connecticut lawmakers have praised the federal aid, they are also raising concerns about a proposed rate hike that could affect the plans of thousands of people in the state.

Connecticut Democrats are celebrating the “Lower Inflation Act” after more than a year of negotiations on a bill that has taken many different forms, including changes to tax policy and provisions on climate change. But while Americans may see some tangible benefits in the near future, most health-related programs will be implemented much more slowly.

The most immediate benefit is a three-year extension of the Affordable Care Act’s expanded subsidies. The increase was created under Democrats’ 2021 federal pandemic relief plan — the American Rescue Plan — and was set to expire at the end of 2022. The extension of financial assistance is expected to save Connecticut households about $220 a month in premiums. to Social Services Commissioner Deirdre Gifford.

It will take several years to implement the rest of the health care components. The bill would affect thousands of Connecticut residents enrolled through the state’s exchange — Access Health CT — as well as seniors in Medicare.

The bill also allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices for the first time in history. It will initially apply to 10 drugs starting in 2026, with the number increasing each year until 2029. The bill would also cap out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs at $2,000 a year starting in 2026. About 19,000 people in Connecticut are now spending more. than $2,000 out of pocket annually.

Drug companies argued it would stifle innovation and the creation of new drugs, but Gifford cited a Congressional Budget Office report that said it would not have a “significant impact” on new drugs over the next three decades.

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