A new research report finds that thousands of parents currently enrolled in Connecticut’s HUSKY health insurance program will go without health care as a result of the Governor’s proposal to cut eligibility for parents. The Governor has proposed to eliminate HUSKY eligibility as of January 2014 for parents with family incomes between 133% and 185% of the federal poverty level ($25,975 to $36,131 for a family of three). The Malloy administration expects that the 37,500 currently insured parents in this income range who lose HUSKY coverage would pay for coverage on the new health insurance exchange when this exchange is up and running in 2014.
The Connecticut Health Foundation commissioned researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Center for Health Law and Economics to assess the impact of these cuts on parents. According to the researchers, between 7,500 and 11,000 currently insured parents would not be able to purchase coverage due to the costs of premiums and therefore become uninsured. (In addition, according to information provided by the Department of Social Services to the legislature’s Appropriations Committee last week, another 5,600 new applicants will not obtain HUSKY A coverage in Fiscal Year 2014 if this proposal becomes law.)
The analysis also shows that many of the parents who do purchase coverage on the exchange will forego health care due to unaffordable out of pocket costs, including premiums and co-payments. Currently, HUSKY parents pay no premiums or co-pays, and have access to services not generally covered by commercial plans (e.g., transportation to medical appointments, routine dental and vision care; access to behavioral health services is more limited under commercial plans). This means that on average a family’s costs would go from $0 to $1,800 per year. The sicker the parent, the more he or she will have to spend on purchasing necessary health care. In the event the parent cannot afford the deductible or co-pays, they are likely to forego care. The analysis also summarizes extensive research on the potential impact on children’s coverage. Although the children of these parents will remain eligible for HUSKY A, “children are less likely to have health insurance coverage if their parents are uninsured”. This is true even when children remain eligible for Medicaid : “Children eligible for public health insurance are less likely to be insured if their parent or parents are uninsured.”
The goal of the federal Affordable Care Act is to increase coverage and access to care for all our residents. Connecticut has done a better job than most states at expanding access to coverage. In 2007, we aligned the income eligibility levels for parents and children at 185% of the federal poverty level to simplify enrollment and to encourage uninsured families to apply. As a result, in the last six years, many more parents and children gained access to needed health coverage in a difficult economy. As we pointed out in our statement in response to the new research, adopting the Governor’s proposal to roll-back eligibility for parents on HUSKY A rolls back these gains in coverage and access for low-income working families. It shifts costs from the state on to families that cannot afford them. The results of the Connecticut Health Foundation’s new report make it clear that we need to stay the course and keep low-income parents covered under HUSKY.