In order to save about $65.5 million over the next two years Gov. Dannel P. Malloy proposed kicking an estimated 37,500 parents off their state-sponsored health insurance and moving them to the insurance exchange on Jan. 1.
The move didn’t sit well with parents and advocates, a group of whom came to the state Capitol on Wednesday to ask the legislature to restore the funding.
“We’re not talking about whether you have cable. We’re talking about whether you have milk for your children,” Teresa Younger, executive director of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said.
She said these working parents, many of whom could not attend the rally, will have to make some hard choices if the legislature doesn’t change the governor’s budget proposal. She said they will be forced to choose between paying for health insurance and putting gas in their vehicles or buying clothes for their children.
Children and pregnant women would continue to receive coverage under Malloy’s budget, but the parents who fall around 133 percent of the federal poverty level — which is $25,975 for a family of three — would be forced to purchase their insurance through the exchange where they would be eligible to receive a subsidy from the federal government.
That subsidy will lower their monthly premiums, but not enough for some to keep their insurance.
Frances Taylor of Manchester said she would be one of the individuals who would lose state coverage under the proposal. She said it would be “impossible” to find between $779 and $2,000 to pay monthly insurance premiums.
She’s not alone.
Other mothers like Ashley Williams and Tabitha Wolchesky came to the Legislative Office Building last week to call upon lawmakers to do anything, including increase taxes, in order to fund the program.
Office of Policy and Management Secretary Ben Barnes, who is also a member of the Health Insurance Exchange board, said Wednesday that the state is working hard to “ensure that subsidized insurance through the exchange will be affordable, high quality coverage.”
“It is imperative that we take advantage of the significant advantages to this population under the Affordable Care Act, and the governor’s proposal does just that,” Barnes said.
It’s unclear at the moment if the legislature’s Appropriations Committee plans to make any changes to that part of the governor’s budget.
The rally was attended by Reps. Gary Holder-Winfield of New Haven and Matt Ritter and Ed Vargas of Hartford.
None of the three lawmakers claimed to have any knowledge of what the legislature’s budget will look like or if it will include funding for this program. The spending side of the budget is being put together by Rep. Toni Walker and Sen. Toni Harp of New Haven and neither was willing to comment Wednesday on what it will or won’t include.
Holder-Winfield encouraged the group of parents to speak to lawmakers and let them know why so few people who are impacted by the issue were unable to attend the rally today.
“Make sure the people in this building understand that they care about these issues even though they can’t get here,” he said.
Ritter said it’s still unclear how the legislature is going to handle this specific spending cut. But he did point out that the cut seems to fly in the face of the spirit of the federal Affordable Care Act, because it means fewer people would have access to health insurance.
“It’s removing people from the ability to have access to health care,” Ritter said of the cut to HUSKY A.
He said the state should be looking to create consistency in its policies and this cut doesn’t seem to fit in with the spirit of the Paid Sick Days law and the Earned Income Tax Credit the legislature approved two years ago.