(Updated) Connecticut became the first state in the nation Monday to permanently add 45,000 low-income adults to its Medicaid program under the new federal health reform law.
The new federal law permits states to receive federal funding for providing Medicaid coverage to adults.
Until now, Connecticut covered adults up to 68 percent of the federal poverty level, through the State Administered General Assistance program, which was funded 100 percent by state funds. The new law requires states to cover all low-income adults in Medicaid starting in 2014, but it also allows states to get federal funding to enroll them right away.
Now 60 percent of the cost of care for individuals in the program will be reimbursed by the federal government, resulting in savings to the state.
“I am so proud that after the long, uphill battle in getting the new health care reform law passed, Connecticut will be the first state to permanently expand coverage to some of our neediest residents,” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, said.
The rest of the Democratic Congressional delegation joined DeLauro in their praise of Rell’s decision to enroll the state early.
“Virtually every step of the way, Connecticut has led the way in embracing the new health care bill, which is covering more Americans and increasing access for millions,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said. “I congratulate Connecticut hospitals for their intelligent leadership pursuing this opportunity.”
Even U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, who was partially responsible for the defeat of the federal health bill’s public option, applauded the news.
“Once again I am pleased to see how health care reform is already making a positive impact on Connecticut,” said Lieberman. “Connecticut has been a leader in providing health care to the uninsured and I am proud that ours is the first state in the nation to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults who were previously covered by the SAGA program.”
Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who jumped at the opportunity to save the state $53 million over the next 15 months by moving the SAGA population to Medicaid, said “with this federal help, we will be able to provide increased medical benefits for them through Medicaid while relieving the burden on state taxpayers.”
However, Rell wasn’t as welcoming of the federal health law when it was passed back in March saying it would cost the state millions of dollars instead of saving the state millions of dollars.
“We’re the ones left to figure out the bill, left to see if it can work and determine how much it will cost,” Rell said in March. “This much, however, I can tell you already: Connecticut, like nearly every other state, cannot afford millions and billions in costs that Washington passes along. It’s that simple.”
But apparently it wasn’t that simple.
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said Friday that the decision by Rell to apply for this funding played a central role in his decision to deny a request by 12 Republican state senators to join a multi-state lawsuit against the new federal health reform law.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services approved Connecticut’s state plan amendment on Monday, making it the first in the nation to take up this new option.
“Connecticut’s action will allow its low-income, uninsured residents to be among the first Americans to realize the full benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” said Marilyn Tavenner, acting administrator of CMS. “We hope other states will follow Connecticut’s example and not wait four years to provide health benefits to those who desperately need them.”
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius added to the praise for Connecticut .
“We applaud Connecticut’s speedy action to expand coverage for its lowest-income residents who will now have reliable access to affordable, quality care as a result of the incentives contained in the Affordable Care Act,” said Sebelius.