Legislators unanimously reversed HUSKY health insurance premium increases they had passed just a few months ago, demonstrating once again why budget writing is one part science, one part art, and one part willful ignorance.
By repealing the premium hikes tonight, roughly 2,200 children will not be kicked off the HUSKY rolls. Policy makers generally agree that in the long run, uninsured citizens end up costing the state more, because those people can’t see a doctor. They then seek emergency care only when they become very sick, and that’s much more expensive than preventative care. But in the short-term mindset of budget negotiations, legislators choose to ignore simple cause-and-effect scenarios, like: if we raise premiums, then some people won’t be able to pay, and then some children will lose their insurance. Instead, they included premium hikes in the budget negotiated this past June.“What did we think was going to happen?” said state Rep. Bill Dyson (D-New Haven), former co-chair of the Appropriations Committee. The legislature pulled a similar tactic with parents of HUSKY children making between 100-150 percent of the poverty level. Leaders discontinued those parents’ benefits in 2003. A judge delayed the policy, but when it was finally going to be implemented this past spring, legislators passed an extension, and then wrote those benefits into the last budget. House Majority Leader Chris Donovan (D-Meriden) acknowledged knowing that it was “possible” children could be kicked off the HUSKY rolls when the budget was passed last June. But he defended the negotiation, saying that it was important to get the parents’ benefits funded at that time. Then, with that momentum, they could address the children’s insurance now, Donovan said. And, instead of having these issues submerged in a general discussion about the budget, Republican legislators and Gov. M. Jodi Rell were now faced with the unpalatable option of taking a public stance against health insurance for kids.“That’s the point,” Donovan said. “We didn’t plan it that way, but when you’re doing a budget negotiation, [HUSKY] is not by itself. If we put the vote out [by itself], then we really see who is going to support it.”