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Advocates Decry Proposed Cuts To Health, Dental Services

by | Apr 19, 2016 4:30am
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Posted to: Health Care, Insurance, State Budget

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s revised budget proposal would eliminate health insurance coverage for about 8,700 parents who have children enrolled in HUSKY and incomes between 138 percent and 155 percent of the federal poverty level. The move is expected to save $900,000.

But advocates and lawmakers say they don’t even know how last year’s parents between 155 percent to 201 percent of the federal poverty level fared and now is not the time to essentially kick people off their insurance.

Last year, according to the Department of Social Services, a group of 645 parents without earned income lost coverage in September – and only one in four enrolled with a private health insurance plan through Connecticut’s insurance exchange.  Another 17,688 parents with earned income maintained eligibility for one year until August 1, 2016, under federal transitional medical assistance rules.

According to a report released Monday by CT Voices for Children, most parents in this group — or 73.5 percent — did not enroll and have since dropped coverage and may be uninsured.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said most of the families impacted by last year’s change never made it to the exchange, so she’s wants to avoid more cuts.

“We’re under pressure to roll back last year’s cuts,” Bye said Monday.

But the administration said Connecticut is one of the only states providing any coverage for adults over 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

“In our new economic reality, the state must align spending with revenue, and as a result difficult decisions must be made,” Chris McClure, a spokesman for Malloy, said. “Those affected individuals will have ample opportunity to find other insurance options such as enrolling in an employer provided plan or to purchase replacement insurance on one of the best implemented health care insurance exchanges in the country. And to be clear, this change would not affect coverage for pregnant women and children.”

A policy paper by the Connecticut Health Foundation found that out-of-pocket costs for those making $27,800 to $31,200 per year for a family of three would be about $1,200 annually, or about $100 per month if they purchase an exchange plan.

“The experiences of other states still point to an estimate that 30 percent of HUSKY parents would become uninsured,” the paper states.

The organization concluded that the state wouldn’t save all the money it expects to save after figuring out which parents are eligible for Medicaid and which should receive transitional medical insurance.

Nancy Boone, executive director of the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs, said they know that when parents aren’t covered their kids have less access.

“I wish we could start investing in people the way we invest in roads,” Boone said. “Any cuts to healthcare creates more poverty.”

She said every penny these individuals make is used for survival and none of the parents will be able to afford insurance on the exchange.

If parents with higher incomes were unable to afford a plan on the exchange, these individuals who make between $27,800 to $31,200 per year for a family of three, won’t be able to afford it, advocates argued.

“The statement in the governor’s budget office that these people will be transitioned to a qualified health plan is not accurate based on the department’s own data showing the people will not be able to afford insurance by that means,” Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance, said.

Advocates also decried Malloy’s decision to reduce Medicaid rates for dental services for low-income children in order to save $5.3 million.

“These are really important services and Connecticut was a leader,” Boone said.

The reductions are “penny-wise and pound-foolish,” according to the Connecticut State Dental Association.

“Over the past eight years, Connecticut’s dental Medicaid program has gone from one of the worst performing programs in the country to a national example, with many other states trying to emulate the program,” Dr. William Nash, president of the Connecticut State Dental Association, said.

He said once the reimbursement rate was increased between 2008 and 2013, the number of dentists willing to see children with HUSKY increased. And according to a December 2015 report from the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute, 64 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children in Connecticut visited the dentist in 2013. This number increased significantly from the 32 percent of Medicaid-enrolled children who visited a dentist in 2005.

“Dentists simply cannot afford to receive less reimbursement for Medicaid services,” Nash said. “Cutting reimbursement rates will cause dentists to drop out of the HUSKY program, thereby making it more difficult for children to access needed dental care.”

Nash argued proper dental care is essential to the underlying health of children and adults.

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