The Appropriations Committee had until today to raise the asset limit for low-income and disabled adults, but it didn’t. However, advocates are not giving up the fight.
Advocates for low-income individuals with disabilities and older adults gathered outside the state Capitol Thursday to call attention to the matter. They said it amounts to discrimination because the Medicaid program includes funding for groups with higher income limits, but failed to address the health care needs of vulnerable populations.
The bill HB 6630 passed unanimously out of the Human Services Committee, but wasn’t funded as part of the Appropriations Committee budget.
Sandy Roberts who works at the Center for Disability Rights said she’s been on Medicaid for the employed-disabled since it came into existence. She said she’s recently been experiencing a lot of neck and back pain and it’s made it hard to focus.
She said she thought about retirement, but if she does she will lose her health care benefits. That would likely mean moving to a nursing home because she would lose her home health aide.
“I’m pissed off,” Rick Famiglietti said. “I worked my ass off. I’m still working my ass off.”
He said he will soon be a victim of discrimination to spend down his income to $1,600 in order to remain eligible for HUSKY C. He said he will lose the opportunity to keep his income of $75,000 a year.
“Without the increase in HB 6630, this will be my retirement,” Famiglietti said.
He said he will end up in a nursing home and cost the state of Connecticut money after filing for bankruptcy and losing his home as a result of the income limits.
“How is it that able-bodied people can access HUSKY D with no assets?” Famiglietti asked. “Why does Connecticut punish people with disabilities who have been working in spite of their disability, and now I have to lose all the things that I’ve saved?”
Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, said there’s still a month left and they are pushing for the funding to be included in the budget.
She said not funding this doesn’t make sense because it allows people to keep working but threatens them with the possible loss of their health care if they keep working.
“We all understand just how difficult it is to live not just in Connecticut, but anywhere on 97%,” Rep. Lucy Dathan, D-Norwalk, said.
She’s referring to 97% of the federal poverty level which is the current income cap for this population. The non-disabled population is allowed a 138% of federal poverty level income cap to receive health care benefits.
Advocates are urging lawmakers to prioritize the needs of vulnerable populations and take action to end discrimination in the Medicaid program. They argue that, especially in light of Connecticut’s unprecedented fiscal position, it is imperative that the state address the healthcare needs of all of its residents, regardless of their income levels.
Rep. Susan Johnson, D-Windham, said state officials really need to understand Medicaid, which is a “spiderweb of laws that keep you from getting qualified from the things you need.”
She said one of the crucial things to the debate is the spending cap and understanding how that impacts this program for health care.
“It’s a way to keep people in poverty,” Johnson said. “… Notice there is no cap on tax credits.”
She said the spending cap is a way to limit resources to low-income communities and she will continue to fight against it.