Governor proposes to cut 40,000 working parents from HUSKY

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The Governor’s budget proposal released today would move an estimated 20,000 working parents with incomes from 133% to 185% of the federal poverty level (currently $25,975 to $36,130/year for a family of three) from HUSKY to the CT Health Insurance Exchange. Right now those working parents pay no premiums or copays for comprehensive coverage. In the exchange, even with federal subsidies, those families would pay premiums up to $1,172 per adult, and further out of pocket costs up to $4,163. In total, those costs make up 18% of family income. Their alternative is to become uninsured and pay a $95 tax penalty. It is likely that many, even most, of the 20,000 parents at risk will not be able to afford exchange coverage, even with the federal subsidies, and will become uninsured. The federal government reimburses CT for half the costs of their care under HUSKY, so every dollar cut from the program only gains CT’s budget 50 cents. The still-developing CT Health Insurance Exchange has been criticized for designing expensive plans and inadequate provider network assurances. In 2003 CT cut a similar number of parents off HUSKY but the impact was delayed for most families by a lawsuit until the state reversed the cuts. During that year, the CT Health Policy Project followed eight HUSKY families with a parent who lost coverage to assess the impact. In one case, a New Haven widow could no longer afford her blood pressure medication, had a heart attack, ended up with thousands in hospital medical debt, and re-qualified for HUSKY due to her medical bills, but only for six months. Very soon after she again became uninsured, she had a more serious heart attack. The savings estimated by the Governor, $59.5 million in FY 2015, are very similar to the savings the state gained by switching HUSKY from capitated HMOs to a self-insured system. Even more savings are expected as the program moves to support care coordination. In addition, there are at least 31 ways to save money in CT’s health care budget that don’t harm consumers.