Despite repeated claims by supporters of the new state budget that it protects the middle class and the most vulnerable, changes to eligibility requirements for the HUSKY-A health insurance program puts hundreds of thousands of lower-income parents at risk of losing coverage.
Although precise numbers are not available, it could be that 20,000 to 24,000 parents of children on the HUSKY program could get the boot eventually. In an effort to save the state money, Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Dannel Malloy agreed to tighten eligibility requirements from a little more than 200 percent of the federal poverty level to an effective 158 percent.
There are some caveats to help people who would lose HISKY-A coverage. They can utilize Transitional Medical Assistance which would give them an extra 12 months of coverage from the August 1 effective date. They can also appeal their case. In addition, the Department of Social Services is required to track those who lost coverage to see if they enrolled in another qualified health insurance plan.
Going by what’s happened in other states, the residual effects of the parents losing coverage are not good. It seems that when the parents lose coverage, many of their children inadvertently fall off the program as well.
Sharon Langer of Connecticut Voices for Children things can get difficult when things are changed. “When there are changes in eligibility it can often result in misunderstanding and miscommunication,” Langer said. “The good news is there are some safeguards put in place for people at risk.”
The changes in HUSKY-A eligibility have gotten little attention but obviously it’s important to people who could lose coverage. Those folks end up in the emergency room and it’s when the health problem is the most chronic and the treatment the most expensive. Tightening eligibility may help the bottom line of the budget but it’s more expensive in the long run.
Then there is the question of whether displaced, low-income parents would even get the proper treatment in the ER. If a parent came in with an infection due to a dental issue, well, there are no dentists in the ER. They’ll treat the infection and refer them to a dentist (which they likely cannot afford).
Knocking parents of HUSKY-A children off the program is just one hit on the middle- and lower-income citizens in the new state budget.