Malloy budget would change status of previously covered HUSKY parents

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's plan to move about 38,000 parents now covered by the state's HUSKY health insurance program to private insurance could result in more uninsured adults, a nonprofit health care advocacy group is warning.

Editor's note: This corrects an earlier version of this article. The Connecticut Health Foundation this week released a report that concluded that 7,500 to 11,000 parents now covered by HUSKY at no cost will go without coverage if Malloy's plan, included in his proposed budget, takes effect. Currently, parents with incomes between $25,975 and $36,131 for a family of three whose children are covered by HUSKY also qualify for HUSKY insurance. Under Malloy's plan, the state would continue to provide insurance for the children.

Alice Straight, spokeswoman for the health foundation, said its study found that parents now covered by HUSKY would pay about $1,800 per year in insurance premiums and other out-of-pocket costs in the private insurance exchanges that are now being set up in Connecticut under the Affordable Care Act.

While the act is intended to reduce the ranks of the uninsured, offering subsidies to help people pay for insurance and imposing penalties if they go without, the governor's plan could have the opposite effect, she said. The penalty in 2014, the first year the exchanges are operating, would be $95. At present, families who are covered by HUSKY pay no premiums or out-of-pocket costs.

"These are people who, by the time they pay rent and buy food, don't have much left," said Jill Zorn, senior program officer with the foundation.

The group is trying to convince the state legislature to reject the governor's plan.

"The simplest and best approach would be to keep them on HUSKY," Zorn said. "We've been able to afford it until now."

Anne Foley, undersecretary for the state Office of Policy and Management, said the governor's office believes the HUSKY parents will pay $960 to $2,200 per year for private insurance in the exchanges.

"We do think it will be affordable for these parents," she said.

Those with the lowest incomes in this group would be eligible for the largest federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The move to private insurance would benefit these parents because more physicians accept private insurance than accept HUSKY, so their access to health care would improve.

The state, Foley said, would save about $6 million in the first year as people transition into the exchanges, and about $59 million per year after that, she said.

Access Health CT, the agency setting up the exchange, is planning an outreach campaign for these parents to urge them to sign up for private insurance through the exchange, she added.

j.benson@theday.com

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