Two mothers who are on the state’s HUSKY program came to the Legislative Office Building on Thursday to decry Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposal to kick them off the state-subsidized insurance program as early as January 2014.
Tabitha Wolchesky and Ashley Williams said they won’t be able to afford the monthly premiums offered in the newly created insurance exchange, even with the federal subsidy they would receive.
The proposal to kick up to 32,000 parents off the HUSKY program and to move them to the exchange would save the state about $5.9 million in 2014 and another $59.6 million in 2015, according to Malloy’s budget.
Wolchesky and Williams said the move might save the state some money, but it would have a devastating impact on their household budgets and would likely cause them to be uninsured.
Wolchesky says she is a Type II insulin dependent diabetic, and if she was forced to purchase her insurance on the exchange she would be forced to meet a large deductible. One of her insulin mediciations — without coverage — is $1,000 and the other is more than $500 for a one-month supply.
But they are not alone. There are more than 32,000 other working parents and families who would be forced to purchase their insurance through the exchange.
“The health insurance exchange is an alternative for these parents, but affordability is a huge roadblock,” Williams said. “The proposed rates under the exchange are not feasible for parents in this income bracket.”
Renee Bailey of Torrington, another concerned mother who could not attend the press conference Thursday, sent a letter explaining that if she lost coverage she would not be able to work or finish college because her migraine medication is the only thing that allows her to function normally. Bailey was in a severe car accident that triggered the migraines.
A divorced mother of two who works three jobs and has a little rental income, Bailey said she makes about $35,400 a year.
Sheldon Toubman, an attorney with New Haven Legal Assistance, said that if Bailey was forced into the exchange she would face premiums of about $100 a month. But she would have a $500 deductible and still be forced to pay about $15 to $30 per medication.
“None of this is affordable for her and it clearly would threaten her otherwise realistic plan to reach self-sufficiency for herself and her family,” he said.
Instead, a group of advocates calling themselves “Better Choices” joined the HUSKY parents Thursday and called upon the legislature to consider raising more revenue in the form of tax increases.
“I am asking you to look at those who pay higher taxes,” Wolchesky said. “It is a human right to live a healthy life. We should not take that from those who are less fortunate than others.”
But Malloy’s budget attempts to close a $2.2 billion budget deficit over the next two years without raising taxes.
The reasoning for that, perhaps, is that Malloy imposed the second largest tax increase in the state’s history in his first budget proposal as governor. But he has since steered clear of so-called tax increases even though the two-year budget he unveiled in February increases spending $1.8 billion or 9.7 percent.
But Wade Gibson, senior policy fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, said that in this recession the state has relied less on revenue increases than it has in the past 25 years.
“So even though we relied less on revenues and more on cuts, the amount of revenues we had to rely on was larger” than in previous recessions, Gibson said.
He called on the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee to take up legislation he says would close a “corporate tax loophole” by making sure multi-state companies in Connecticut don’t send their profits to another state to avoid paying taxes.
Closing that loophole would bring in enough revenue to save the 32,000 parents from being kicked of the HUSKY program, Gibson concluded.
But Finance Committee Co-Chairwoman Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, disagrees.
She said the state has looked at the “unitary” or “combined reporting tax” and has concluded it wouldn’t benefit the state.
“We chose not to raise that for a public hearing,” Widlitz said Thursday. “We did not see the sense of putting it up for a public hearing with the same old discussion we always have.”
She said the state Department of Revenue Services doesn’t have enough information to say there’s any revenue to be gained from such a tax.
Joseph Brennan, vice president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, said the state already taxes royalties and interest income so there is no “loophole” in the corporate tax structure.
The public hearing process for the committee has expired, but Widlitz said it still has time to consider some of its own revenue options.
Sources said lawmakers on the committee will meet this weekend to discuss possible legislation to increase revenue.
Gibson and the group of advocates also called on lawmakers to increase income taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent, raise the cigarette tax 95 cents to match New York, and to increase sales taxes on luxury goods.
Widlitz declined to discuss what revenue options her committee may be exploring.