State Sen. Kevin Kelly (R-21) joined with Gov. Ned Lamont and fellow state lawmakers Wednesday, Jan. 22, to announce Connecticut's plans to move forward with a health care cost growth and quality benchmark program to reduce the growing costs of care.

“Connecticut residents deserve healthcare that is affordable and accessible,” said Kelly, ranking member of the Insurance and Real Estate Committee. “Far too many people struggle every day to pay their medical bills or go without needed care and treatment. That is unacceptable.”

The program will be modeled after a similar benchmark program in Massachusetts that has saved health care consumers more than $5 billion since 2013.

Benchmarking works, said Kelly, by setting a target and holding all health care stakeholders accountable to a statewide goal of cost reduction. It increases transparency, data collection and communication between all stakeholders to identify and develop plans to address major cost drivers.

The policy was further explored by a bipartisan working group last year including Kelly, co-chairs of the Insurance Committee, the Office of Health Strategy and Lamont’s office.

“Over the last few months, I’ve worked in a bipartisan group to further explore the benefits of healthcare cost growth benchmarking policies that have yielded positive results for Massachusetts,” said Kelly. “Healthcare affordability needs to be tackled with a multi-pronged approach that includes controlling the growth of expenses. I applaud the governor’s work to advance these bipartisan efforts and get a head start on increasing transparency and get control of rising healthcare costs.”

The governor's executive orders direct the Office of Health Strategy (OHS) to establish statewide healthcare cost growth and quality benchmarks and a primary care spending target, and the Department of Social Services (DSS) to improve public transparency of Medicaid costs and quality.

The orders were signed during a ceremony at the offices of ProHealth Physicians in Middletown alongside OHS Executive Director Vicki Veltri, DSS Commissioner Deidre Gifford, state lawmakers, and business and community leaders.

“We know how effective this is in other states. Establishing statewide healthcare cost growth benchmarks reins in healthcare spending,” said Veltri. “Healthcare costs are a major problem for our residents and employers, far outpacing wage growth - over the past 15 years, families saw the cost of healthcare rise by 77 percent while median wage only went up by 21 percent. Taking a broader approach through statewide annual healthcare cost growth benchmarks and ensuring we prioritize primary care spending will help better coordinate care and head off higher cost services - it is good for families, businesses, and the state. As important as controlling the rate of cost growth, ensuring better health care quality for all residents is key to getting better value for our healthcare dollar.”

“Focusing on quality and cost is a critical step in reducing Connecticut’s significant racial and ethnic health disparities,” said Patricia Baker, President and CEO of the Connecticut Health Foundation. “Cost has become a major barrier in keeping people from receiving healthcare when they need it. Measuring and monitoring care quality will allow us to identify the best outcomes and to pinpoint and address disparities. In addition, emphasizing primary care is important as research has linked having a usual source of care to reducing disparities. Connecticut is wise to adopt strategies from other states as we work to make this a state in which everyone can be as healthy as possible.”

“Today’s actions will result in bringing all of the stakeholders - private and public - together to work collaboratively to develop and execute a strategy that controls healthcare spending and improves health and healthcare quality,” said Paul Grady, principal at Alera Group and board member of the Connecticut Business Group on Health.