It’s official. The federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services denied a state waiver that would have allowed them to kick more than 13,000 low-income individuals off Medicaid.
The denial, which came Friday, says the the waiver did not serve the purposes of the Medicaid Act because it would “eliminate coverage for as many as 13,381 very low-income individuals for an approximate one year period, which is not consistent with the general statutory objective to extend coverage to low-income populations.”
The Malloy administration proposed the waiver last summer because it was concerned about skyrocketing enrollment and, more specifically, about the number of college-age children in the program. Currently, those who qualify for the program have incomes at 55 percent of the federal poverty level, which amounts to about $6,440 a year.
Back in July when the legislature was debating whether to move forward with the waiver, the Department of Social Services reported that there were 20,354 enrollees under the age of 26 in the Low-Income Adult program. The waiver sought to apply a $10,000 asset test to those individuals applying for the program. The new asset test would apply to the families of these children, ages 19 to 26, and it would have kicked many of them off the program.
Health care advocates applauded the decision by the federal agency Friday, but they worry even more about Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s current proposal to kick 40,000 low-income parents off the HUSKY program.
In his budget, Malloy proposed asking parents between 133 percent to 185 percent of the federal poverty level with children on the HUSKY plan to purchase their health insurance through the exchange starting in January 2014. His administration argues parents will receive federal subsidies if they purchase their insurance that way, but even Malloy’s budget director admitted that premium costs and benefits of plans on the exchange won’t be known until later this summer.
What’s even more troubling for advocates is that the more recent proposal doesn’t need federal approval.
Jane McNichol, executive director of the Legal Assistance Resource Center, told the legislature’s Human Services Committee last week that the language in the governor’s proposal doesn’t require the administration to ask the legislature to make changes to the program. She suggested the legislature seek some sort of oversight over future changes to the program.
Sheldon Toubman, a lawyer with New Haven Legal Assistance, said there will be collateral damage if the administration marches forward with its plan to kick 40,000 parents off the program.
“Some eligible kids will go uninsured as a result of their parents being kicked off of Medicaid,” Toubman said.
Sharon Langer of Connecticut Voices for Children testified last week that national data shows that when the whole family is covered, they’re more like to get the care they need.
“Insured children with uninsured parents are nearly 2.5 times more likely to experience an insurance coverage gap than insured children with insured parents,” Langer said in her written testimony. “Insured children with uninsured parents are at greater risk of having unmet health care needs and having never received at least one preventive counseling service.”