Sharon Langer, M.Ed., J.D.
HUSKY and Medicaid are pillars of Connecticut’s health care infrastructure and the foundation upon which health care reform will be built. The HUSKY Health Program is a central component of Connecticut’s health care system, providing low-cost or free health care coverage for over 270,000 children and 130,000 parents and pregnant women. In addition, more than 200,000 Connecticut adults – seniors, low-income, or those with severe disabilities-- also rely on HUSKY Health (Medicaid) for all or a portion of their health care coverage.
HUSKY provides affordable coverage to children, low-income families and young adults, and it is a cost-effective investment. The federal government currently reimburses the state for half to two-thirds of Medicaid (HUSKY A, C, and D) and CHIP (HUSKY B) costs in Connecticut. So to “save” $1 in state funds, policymakers would need to cut almost $3 in HUSKY funding for children’s health coverage.
Implementation of national health reform provides opportunities to strengthen HUSKY. Under the new national health reform law, Connecticut will be required by 2014 to operate a health insurance exchange through which uninsured middle-income individuals and small businesses can purchase health insurance. Connecticut should take full advantage of opportunities to strengthen HUSKY and Medicaid as health reform takes shape in the state and the nation.
To maintain and improve health insurance coverage for Connecticut’s children and families, state policymakers should:
- At a minimum, maintain current coverage and benefit levels.
- Determine how best to protect families from unaffordable cost-shifting in 2014 when approximately 20,000 low income adults who are currently in Medicaid (HUSKY A) may no longer be eligible as a result of federal health reform.
- Ensure that the Department of Social Services has the staff expertise and resources to implement health reform initiatives that affect families in HUSKY and Medicaid, including the need to fully “modernize” its HUSKY eligibility processes and coordinate its systems with the exchange in 2014.
- Maximize federal funding and reinvest such funds in the HUSKY program.
- Strengthen the network of providers who participate in HUSKY and Medicaid.
- Ensure that sufficient resources are provided for timely data collection and independent evaluation of how well the HUSKY Program is serving children and families.
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