Christine Stuart photo.
Speaker James Amann pictured. (Christine Stuart photo.)

A new CT Voices for Children poll released Monday found 9 out of 10 Connecticut voters say health care is a very important issue. Nearly 94 percent of the 400 Connecticut residents polled say HUSKY, the state insurance program for low-income families, is an important program and 89 percent favored expanding the program to cover all uninsured children in the state.

Click here to read the report sponsored by the New England Alliance for Children’s Health and funded in part by the Connecticut Health Foundation and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals.

The leaders in the Democratic caucus, Speaker James Amann, D-Milford and Senate President Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn, have made expanding health care coverage to the 70,000 children without insurance in the state a priority this legislative session.

“HUSKY is about removing barriers to care, not inventing new ones,” Amann said at the press conference organized by CT Voices for Children.

In order to increase access, Williams said the reimbursement rates for medical professionals also has to increase because a state survey showed it was a barrier to access for new patients.

He said only 4 percent of dentists in the state accept HUSKY patients. A reality Sandy Prisk of East Hartford knows all too well.

Prisk the mother of three children ages 10, 13, and 15 said in the 10 years her children have been on HUSKY they’ve been through about six dentists. She said finding a dentist that accepts HUSKY is difficult because of the low reimbursement rates. But Prisk said she puts up with some of the minor inconveniences like searching for a dentist because HUSKY is “helping my family.”

Prisk said her husband is self-employed without health insurance and she works one full-time and one part-time job so they can pay the bills. The additional $180 a month it would cost her family for insurance if they didn’t have the HUSKY program would put them behind in their monthly bills and mortgage, she said. She said with HUSKY coverage, “it’s one less thing I need to worry about for my kids.” She said if she and her husband could afford to get him on her insurance through her full-time job they would, but at the moment they are doing all they can to make ends meet.

Ironically, Prisk used be employed as a HUSKY outreach worker until her position was cut for lack of funding.

Last year, Gov. M. Jodi Rell touted her commitment to HUSKY by using $1 million from the drop in enrollment to help market the program, but the money wasn’t released from her office until this month.

The money was released on Feb. 16, even though her office put out the press release on increased enrollment numbers on Feb. 12 trying to take credit for the increased enrollment. In the Feb. 12 press release Rell was quoted as saying, “In September, we announced $1 million in new funding for community outreach and public information aimed at boosting HUSKY enrollment.” 

In order to continue to increase enrollment in the state’s HUSKY program, Congressman Joe Courtney said Monday that Congress needs to increase funding to the State Children’s Health Insurance Program known in Connecticut as HUSKY B. He said Congress will begin the process of reauthorizing the federal SCHIP this year, which expires in September. The non-partisan and independent Congressional Research Service states that the SCHIP program will need an increase of $13-15 billion over the next five years to maintain current services to America’s uninsured children and families, but President Bush has only requested $5 billion over the next five years putting the health of Connecticut’s and the nation’s children at risk.

In another released late last week a study by health care advocacy group Families USA found uninsured children in Connecticut are four times more likely to die if they are hospitalized for a general injury than those children with insurance. Click here to read the article in USA Today.