Christine Stuart photo

A research professor from Georgetown University concluded Thursday that Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed changes to the Husky health insurance program on Feb. 4 could increase the number of uninsured and cause the state to lose $1.3 billion in new federal dollars.

Jack Hoadley, a professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, predicted that about 8,000 of the 18,000 Husky A parents would drop coverage when faced for the first time with a premium and about 1,600 of the 5,000 Husky B children would drop coverage when faced with an increased premium. There are about 345,000 residents enrolled in the Husky program.

Also Hoadley said if Connecticut follows through with Rell’s plan to increase premiums the state will risk losing $1.3 billion in federal dollars in exchange for $21 million in new and increased premium revenue.

Michael Cicchetti, deputy secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, said Thursday afternoon that Rell has since rejected the proposed premium increases. He said since her budget was released prior to the federal stimulus package vote, she was unaware that the policy change would impact the amount of federal dollars.

The Democrat-controlled Appropriations Committee budget also rejected the proposed premium increases, but it did not eliminate the pharmaceutical co-payments for certain portions of the Medicaid population.

The state saves money when it requires families to share in the costs by asking the Husky patient to make a co-payment and it also saves money when families go without services, he said. But, he said, this type of policy “winds up being a fairly blunt instrument.”

He said what happens is people stop taking their drugs for a chronic condition like hypertension because the health impact is not immediately obvious. However, when people stop taking their drugs their use of emergency rooms and hospitals increases.

In addition, co-payments place an administrative burden on providers, which means fewer and fewer will want to participate in the program, he said.

Christine Stuart photo

It may place an even bigger burden on individuals like Evelyn Richardson.

Richardson, a Hartford resident with seven children and three jobs, said the three children she still has living at home have asthma, eczema, and allegories. She said it is necessary for her to keep prescriptions at school, home, and at the child care provider.

If the co-payments go through, she said she doesn’t think she could manage making a co-payment on each one of those prescriptions, since sometimes she doesn’t even have enough money for the bus in her pocket.

“Less money comes in than I’m paying out every month,” Richardson said.
Richardson considers herself lucky enough to have three jobs. She said it makes her wonder how the person with one job will be able to make it under these new proposals.

Immigrants

Under Rell’s plan, nearly 6,000 immigrants lawfully residing in the U.S. less than five years would have their health benefits terminated.

In 1996 the federal government restricted the use of federal dollars to cover immigrants, but Connecticut chose to do so anyway and in 2009 the federal government decided to offer matching funds for immigrant children and pregnant women, Hoadley said.

In Connecticut that means about 2,500 pregnant women and children could receive a federal match if the state continues its program. The Democrats provide money in their budget for the 2,500 pregnant women and children, but eliminate coverage for all other immigrants.

If the state does this most of the immigrants will become uninsured, failed to see primary care doctors, and use the emergency room when they do need care, Hoadley said. He said this policy change could overwhelm community health centers because they will lose Medicaid payments.

The Connecticut Health Foundation sponsored Hoadley’s research and his entire report can be viewed here and here.