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Friday’s Council meeting focused mainly on plans for the $50 million temporary high risk pool opportunity created by national health reform. DSS joined the CT Insurance Dept. and the Health Reinsurance Association (HRA) to describe their plans. They intend to piggyback on the current high risk pool administered by HRA which was created in 1976 to provide coverage to CT residents with pre-existing conditions denied individual insurance. Insurance coverage will be provided through United Healthcare. After more than three decades HRA enrollment is only 2,529. HRA was criticized at the meeting for very high premiums, high deductibles, and a very confusing website. There will be at least three call centers for the various stakeholders involved in the program, including DSS, CID, ACS, HRA and United Healthcare. Concerns were raised about fragmentation, that consumers would be left with no clear point of contact, and the risk of very high administrative costs, especially given the limited federal resources available. Concerns were also raised about benefits and cost sharing under the plan. DSS admitted that the plan does not comply with state law, but doesn’t have to under federal law. Even more controversial, DSS intends to seek legislative approval to shift any eligible Charter Oak members with pre-existing conditions to this new plan; consumers moving from Charter Oak to the new plan would face significantly higher costs, potentially reaching over $1,000 more per month. DSS refused to outline how they would use the savings in the Charter Oak plan; suggestions from Council members included reducing premiums, lifting benefit caps, raising the pharmacy cap or eliminating the requirement that applicants be uninsured for six months.

In other updates, DSS described the increases in copayments and premiums in Charter Oak and HUSKY Part B. ACS will track cost sharing for families and alert both the HMOs and families when they have reached the federal limits and will no longer be charged copays. DSS is still pursuing the conversion of SAGA into Medicaid with CMS. For the first time since its inception and despite stubbornly high unemployment rates, enrollment in Charter Oak dropped in May when members were notified of the increase in premiums.
Ellen Andrews