Cross-posted from Pelto’s Point (New Haven Advocate)
Depending on what data you use the United States ranks 5th in the world in per capita income and Connecticut ranks #1 or #2 among the 50 states.
It is certainly fair to say, at least as far as the rest of the world and the rest of the country are concerned, Connecticut is both envied and considered the land of plenty.
But of course, despite all the wealth, we know that many of our fellow residents need help just to survive and many more need some type of assistance to achieve an acceptable 21st Century standard of living.
While people can disagree about what role government should play in ensuring that its citizens have access to the resources necessary to live fulfilling lives, many would, at the very least, define essential government service as those that provide Connecticut’s people with access to food, shelter, healthcare and the social and educational programs that they need and deserve to create healthier, safer and better lives for themselves and their families.
Yesterday we learned that the number of Connecticut residents receiving food assistance grew by 30 percent from the 2009 to 2010 and that now more than 336,000 people use food stamps to put food on the table. We also learned that the Department of Social services is so dysfunctional and lacking in leadership that Connecticut “wrongly denies food stamps to eligible residents at a higher rate than any other state”.
HUSKY is the foundation of Connecticut’s system of health care for children whose families cannot afford healthcare.
The historic SustiNet initiative (which was up for a public hearing last week) is designed to expand access to healthcare and replace the existing HUSKY program. However, that initiative was dealt a major setback when Governor Malloy’s Administration recently came out against the implementation of SustiNet despite the fact that Candidate Malloy said, or at least implied, that he would support the program when he became Governor.
As it now stands, almost one in every three children in Connecticut is enrolled in the HUSKY program. HUSKY health insurance covers more than 406,000 children, parents, and pregnant women.
With fewer Connecticut families able to afford their own healthcare insurance and employer healthcare plans being dropped or priced out of range, enrollment in HUSKY has jumped 6.6 percent.
The vast majority of the money to pay for HUSKY insurance comes through the State’s Medicaid program which is good news for Connecticut taxpayers since the Federal Government reimburses Connecticut for 60% to 65% of the total costs. That means for every $3 Connecticut spends on its HUSKY program, the Federal Government gives the state nearly $2
Since the HUSKY program is aimed at Children and their parents, Connecticut still has over 400,000 residents who don’t have any healthcare insurance (which is one of the reasons the SustiNet program is so important.
Governor Malloy’s proposed budget seeks to preserve most of the HUSKY program but he does call for changes that would impact many of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our state.
The Governor’s budget saves state dollars by requiring HUSKY families to share more of the cost of the insurance while reducing some health benefits or other services used by children and families in the HUSKY Program.
Cuts $8.2 million by imposing new co-payments on some children and most adults in the program
Cuts $9.8 million by reducing dental services for parents and other adults in Medicaid
Cuts $825,000 by requiring that adults in Medicaid only get one pair of glasses every other year
Saves $6 million by delaying for two years the start of a program to provide foreign language interpretation services for patients
Cuts $1 million from the HUSKY B program (although the budget doesn’t explain how that is to be achieved)
Finding places to cut the state budget is certainly a paramount concern. Many would probably consider reducing coverage for eye-glass an appropriate step, but some of the other proposed cuts are, at best, short-sighted. Numerous studies have shown that instituting these types of co-payments actually results in people utilizing these services less, thus not getting the medications they need, which in turn leads to more emergency rooms visits, which end up costing taxpayers far more.
For more on the impact of Governor Malloy’s budget on children check out the great reports that CT Voices for children have done at http://www.ctkidslink.org/pub_detail_532.html