While the state is promising to help transition nearly 18,000 low-income parents who will lose their transitional Husky A health insurance at the end of July, at least one advocate is questioning whether the state is doing enough to help.
Ellen Andrews, executive director of the CT Health Policy Project, said the notice of the change in eligibility for Medicaid being sent to parents should give them more useful information in the event they do lose their insurance.
In a letter to Healthcare Advocate Victoria Veltri, Andrews suggested that the notice must be “unambiguous.” She said parents should understand what the loss of coverage means.
“For example, they may not be able to see their doctor anymore. The notice needs to be that direct, and that point needs to be made in the first paragraph,” Andrews wrote.
She said while it is important to let parents know they can check for plans through Access Health CT, Connecticut’s insurance marketplace, or with the state to see if they are eligible for Medicaid, “it is very likely that many parents cut from the program will lose coverage completely.”
A copy of the 5-page draft notice obtained from the Department of Social Services tells parents in bold in the first paragraph that “You will need to take action as soon as possible, but no later than July 31, 2016, to avoid losing health care coverage. This is extremely important because, without health coverage, you may not be able to see your doctor or other medical providers.”
The notice goes on to detail exactly how these parents can obtain coverage.
Access Health CT has also set up a website — learn.accesshealthct.com/husky-move/ — to address the transition and will begin making phone calls to those currently receiving coverage on July 1, according to a spokeswoman for Access Health CT.
But many, including Andrews, worry that these parents won’t be able to afford coverage.
These are parents who are making between $37,665 to $48,843 for a family of four. Their children won’t lose coverage under the plan, but with premiums of more than $244 per month for a silver plan and around $100 for a bronze plan from Access Health CT, the parents are unlikely to be able to afford coverage. The monthly premium estimates above already include the federal subsidy.
The deductibles for those plans are more than $10,000, so in addition to paying the monthly premiums, the out-of-pocket costs will have to be more than $10,000 before insurance actually kicks in.
Andrews said for most parents without huge medical bills and high deductibles, “they will never get any care through insurance (except maybe a check up), but they will pay premiums for it every month.”
She suggested the notice should tell parents to see their doctors now because it’s likely they won’t have insurance by August 1. And if they are taking medication they need to try and get a 90-day prescription.
“Adding this information has the double benefit of making very clear what is about to happen and what it means,” Andrews added. “I understand that no one is eager to implement this policy. This cut was no one’s first choice to deal with budget limitations. However, it is critical that we all put aside our discomfort with the policy and clearly communicate the impact to HUSKY parents. We owe them a straightforward description of what is coming so they can prepare. Let me know if you have any questions,thoughts, or concerns.”
Connecticut Voices for Children is also concerned about the transition.
Sharon Langer, advocacy director for CT Voices for Children, said notwithstanding the efforts to help these families “we are concerned they will find the Qualified Health Plans unaffordable and may eventually become uninsured.” She said it’s important for policy makers to ensure uninterrupted coverage for these parents.
Of the 1,215 parents who had no earned income and were not eligible for ongoing Medicaid coverage, only one in four or about 150 enrolled in plans through Access Health CT, a CT Voices for Children paper states.
According to a May presentation on the program, 80 of those who started receiving coverage through Access Health CT didn’t pay their monthly premiums and were disenrolled.
Lawmakers held off making any additional changes to the program in 2016. This change was made necessary through the 2015 budget, which reduced the number of people eligible to receive Medicaid, which is the basis of the Husky insurance program.
“The outreach and notification initiatives will help guide Husky enrollees to a convenient application gateway at Access Health CT. Online, phone and mail-in options are available,” Department of Social Services Commissioner Roderick Bremby, said. “Enrollees’ updated income and household information will then help determine whether they will be eligible for a Qualified Health Plan with reduced cost, or for other types of Husky Health/Medicaid coverage.”
Kathleen Tallarita, a spokeswoman for Access Health CT, said the letters will be mail today and the phone calls will be made on July 1.
“This is a challenging message to communicate, so AHCT, OHA, DSS and the advocate community have devised an outreach plan that encompasses multiple touch points, the first being this letter,” Tallarita said.