nomarijuanaHARTFORD: While Advocates for legalization of recreational use of Marijuana in Connecticut cite economic benefit to the state an anti-legalization group, argues legalization will cost Connecticut money and have a significant impact on quality of life issues.

Smart Approaches to Marijuana [SAM], in conjunction with the Connecticut chapter of SAM (CT-SAM), released a what it calls a “comprehensive report” that projects legalization would cost the state $216 million, adding “far outweighing even the rosiest tax projections.”

"Everyone likes to talk about the assumed revenue that marijuana legalization would bring to a state, but no one likes to discuss the costs affiliated with such policy measures," said Kevin A. Sabet, a former Obama Administration drug policy adviser who is now head of the anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). "This report will hopefully give lawmakers in Connecticut reason to pause and consider the implications of such policies."

marijuana By: Keith M. Phaneuf |

Advocates for legalizing recreational marijuana use in Connecticut — and taxing its sales — are hoping a holistic, economic argument will win the day this year.

Supporters say the potential to bolster the state’s tourism industry, create jobs, and even encourage young professionals to locate here, should attract votes for an issue that couldn’t get a vote in the House or Senate in 2017.

cadeuces obamacare2By:  |

In all, 114,134 residents enrolled in private health insurance through the state’s health insurance exchange, Access Health CT, during the shortened, seven-week open enrollment period that ended on Dec. 22.

That represents a 2.3 percent increase from 2017, when open enrollment lasted for three months.

“Every open enrollment brings its fair share of opportunities and challenges … To say that this is the most challenging open enrollment we’ve had since 2013 is an understatement,” said Access Health CEO Jim Wadleigh at the exchange’s board meeting last week. “During this fifth year, we had new obstacles, a new administration, a shorter enrollment and a harder-to-reach population, and again all the noise and confusion coming out of Washington, D.C.”

Here are some highlights about those who enrolled.

zmedicaWALINGFORD: Z-Medica, LLC, a developer of hemostatic devices, announced that QuikClot Control+® approved by the FDA in June of 2017 is now commercially available.

Z-Media says “QuikClot Control+ is the first and only hemostatic dressing cleared for temporary control of internal organ space bleeding for patients displaying class III or class IV bleeding.”

QuickClot was first invented in 1984 but its acceptance by the US Military for use in the Afghanistian war made it commercially available for external wounds.

Biostage 1st patientHARTFORD: Connecticut Children's Medical Center has made an investment in a small Massachusetts based biotech company Biostage, Inc. [OTCQB: BSTG/BSTGD]. The Center’s investment was part of a $4.2 million private placement. The current company’s market value is approximately $2.5 million. The hospital has reportedly made a $100,000 investment in the placement.

CCMC has several locations in Connecticut and at the Shriners Hospital and Baystate Medical [hospital] in Springfield, Mass.

Biostage says it is developing “bioengineered organ implants to treat cancers and other life-threatening conditions of the esophagus, bronchus and trachea.” According to the company, the Children’s Medical Center was joined by a “group of investors from China.”

In October the company reduced its workforce by 71% [17 employees], in response to problems with another investment that didn’t materialize.

cadeucesHARTFORD: US Attorney General Jeff Sessions may be trying to arrest the increase in marijuana sales in states across the country, but Connecticut is seeking more Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.

There are currently 22,348 medical marijuana patients, and 807 certifying physicians and advanced practice registered nurses in the state of Connecticut.

The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) has issued a Request for Application (RFA) for new Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facilities. The department plans to award at least three (3) new licenses.

“Our state’s Medical Marijuana Program is incredibly successful, and is growing rapidly,” said Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull, “When there is a substantial increase in the number of patients, DCP can issue new RFAs in order to best meet the demand for medication, and continue our commitment to quality health care.”

If you want to sell pot you’ll be required to submit detailed information about your business plan, site plan, financial information, organizational structure, security plans, compassionate care program plans and more. Applicants have until April 9th, 2018, there is a $1000 application fee and the application must be hand delivered, perhaps based on a concern about Federal law.

chestervillageCHESTER: Chester Village West set on 55 acres with 105 cottages and apartments was purchased by Masonicare, based in Wallingford, the state’s largest not-for-profit provider of senior healthcare and retirement living from LifeCare Services of Des Moines, Iowa.

“The addition of Chester Village to our organization is a win-win for all,” said Jon-Paul Venoit, President/CEO of Masonicare. “We have extensive experience in the retirement living arena and our cultures are very similar. We are retaining nearly all of their employees, and we expect to invest in some capital improvements on the campus as well.”

Sales terms were not disclosed.

cadeuces obamacare2

Washington – As Congress is about to vote on a tax overhaul that will gut the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance, a number of states, including Connecticut, may consider a state-based penalty to encourage people to obtain coverage.

Nearly 60,000 individuals and families in Connecticut paid a federal tax penalty last year because they did not have health insurance coverage in 2015, a penalty imposed by the ACA’s “individual mandate.”

Most of those paying that penalty in Connecticut — about 50,000 tax filers —  reported incomes to the Internal Revenue Service of between $10,000 and $50,000.

The final tax bill that will be voted on this week in Congress would eliminate that mandate in 2019. The result, the Congressional Budget Office said, is the number of uninsured Americans would grow by 4 million people that year and by 13 million by 2027. The CBO also estimates there would be an immediate increase of about 10 percent in premiums because the risk pool that remains would be older and sicker.

“Congressional Republicans made a terrible policy decision in eliminating the healthcare mandate,” said Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman,  who heads the state healthcare cabinet.

Wyman said elimination of the penalty will “cause healthcare costs to rise for everyone.”

“Connecticut’s bipartisan working group is examining the impact of federal action on our healthcare landscape and considering all options to ensure healthcare is affordable and accessible for residents,” Wyman said.

State Rep. Sean Scanlon, a Democrat on that working group, said the idea of a state-imposed mandate “absolutely has to be on the table,” if Congress approves the GOP tax overhaul, because the end of the federal mandate “would be a very bad thing for the state of Connecticut,” resulting in more uninsured and higher premiums for those who do buy insurance.

Scanlon said that as the chairman of the insurance committee in the state legislature, “I intend to have a conversation about this that includes both parties,” when the General Assembly meets early next year.

“To me, this is a very important topic that we will undoubtedly discuss in February,” he  said.

“Step one has to be if the (federal tax penalties) do go away, is imposing a mandate the right thing to do?” Scanlon said. “And if we answer that ‘yes,’ then the next step is determining what it would look, like.”

Maryland is considering a state mandate that would give those required to pay it the option of using that money to help pay for insurance coverage, which is subsidized for many under the ACA.

In most cases, Maryland officials say, the person under penalty may not have to pay any more money to obtain coverage because of those subsidies, which help pay premiums for those who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s an income of $47,500 for an individual this year, and $97,200 for a family of four.

Massachusetts never repealed the state mandate it had imposed before Obamacare went into effect. So if Congress approves the tax bill this week, as expected, the state still has its mandate on the books.

California is also considering a state mandate – as well as other options.

At a recent board meeting, Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, the state’s ACA marketplace, raised the idea of a state-level individual mandate if the federal one disappeared.

But he also proposed other steps the state could take to keep premiums from rising, including a continuous coverage requirement — requiring people to remain enrolled in health insurance or pay higher premiums later – and automatically enrolling Californians in an insurance plan.

Washington, D.C., is also discussing replacing the federal mandate with its own penalty.

The idea of a state mandate is under discussion in mainly “blue” states with Democratic governors and state legislatures. But it comes at a political cost, as the individual mandate is one of the most unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act.

Matthew Katz, executive vice president of the Connecticut State Medical Society, said he’d rather the state offer those who might drop coverage if the individual mandate is eliminated “a carrot, not a stick.”

But he said the mandate “is a way to fund and encourage participation in the marketplace,” and without it there will be “a further ballooning of premiums.”

“If the state doesn’t do something, it could be disastrous to the insurance market,” Katz said.

Making lemonade from lemons

Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at Families USA, a health care advocacy group, said different types of people will drop coverage if the federal mandate is gone.

Not only will young people and young families with modest incomes who are struggling to purchase coverage on the individual market drop coverage, but some people who are now covered under employer policies may elect to drop out of those plans so they don’t have to pay their match.

Also, a number of people who are eligible for Medicaid, the joint federal state program for those with low incomes, may be uninsured.

“The individual mandate act as a ‘nudge’ for many people who don’t realize they qualify for Medicaid,” Dorn said.

The CBO said the end of the mandate and the increase in the number of uninsured would save the federal government about $338 billion over the next decade in subsidies and Medicaid costs it no longer has to pay for. The savings are earmarked by GOP authors of the tax overhaul to offset the cost of some of their plan’s tax cuts.

Dorn said he expects insurers — who want the young, healthy people most likely to drop coverage to stay in the market — to press states to “fill the gap” if the individual mandate is gone, and consider state tax penalties to boost coverage.

“But this is all at an early stage,” Dorn said. “Discussions are just getting underway.”

Still,  he predicts “some states will make lemonade out of lemons.”

“They will step up to the plate to help their residents,” Dorn said.