By Wayne Jebian
Latino parents like Angela Poteat will have to make some difficult decisions if Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s cuts to HUSKY A healthcare pass under his proposed budget. Poteat, a mother of two and barista at La Paloma Sabanera in Hartford, said her healthcare situation would drastically change as a result of the cuts.
Poteat said she relies on HUSKY A for asthma medication and eczema treatment, and if the cuts were implemented emergency care would be out of the question.
“I would never go to the hospital,” she said.
She explained that most working Latinos who cannot afford health insurance would never consider going to the emergency room and then ducking the bill. “A bill is a bill, and we have long-term goals, so if you want to buy a house 20 years down the line, ignoring a bunch of bills doesn’t do anything for you. So you just won’t go to the hospital.”
HUSKY A coverage, a form of Medicaid, is available to Connecticut children and their parents or related caregivers depending on their income. HUSKY Health provides full benefits packages, including doctor visits, prescriptions, vision and dental care coverage.
Thousands of parents currently receiving health insurance benefits under their children’s HUSKY A health plans are at risk of losing coverage under the governor’s budget proposal. According to the Connecticut Health Foundation, approximately 37,500 people will lose coverage, specifically adults at the upper end of income eligibility, if the cuts pass. Those at risk of being dropped fall between 133% and 185% of the federal poverty level, or a total yearly income of between $26,00 to $36,000 for a family of three.
Poteat used a close friend as an example of how families suffer without proper healthcare coverage. “Three months ago, he broke his toe and he did not get it fixed until he got into his job’s insurance,” she said. “His toe was black. We all knew it was broken.
Parents affected by potential cuts to HUSKY A may find consolation in the fact that under the governor’s proposal, Connecticut residents will become eligible to purchase healthcare under the insurance exchange system beginning in January 2014. However, this would likely mean hundreds of dollars in additional health-related expenses per month, such as higher co-pays and premiums.
“Affordability is a huge roadblock,” said Ashley Williams, who is a student at UConn and new mother currently insured under HUSKY A. Williams said she was kicked off her mother’s health plan when she became pregnant.
“The proposed rates under the health exchange are not feasible for the parents in this income bracket,” she said.
Williams argued that the impact of the cuts would be more than just parents’ healthcare suffering, but that their children’s coverage would suffer as well. Uninsured parents are less likely to cover their children, since it takes more time and coordination to sign up individual family members for separate plans offered by different organizations, and then figure out which healthcare providers accept the plans, she said.
Rep. Matthew Lesser (D-Middletown) will be speaking at a rally in Hartford to protect HUSKY A coverage on Wednesday, April 17. Lesser said he believes the cuts will cause problems for adults receiving mental health coverage through HUSKY A.
“Our state’s Office of Healthcare Advocate has pointed out that HUSKY A parents use mental health coverage to a large extent,” he said. “There is a concern about what kind of care they would be able to get through the private market at this point.”
Lesser pointed out that because many private health plans are limited the mental health coverage they provide, and those that do cover it require co-pays, utilization of mental health services statewide will inevitably suffer if HUSKY A parents are cut off.
“It’s something that is particularly timely right now as we look at our response to the Newtown shooting,” he said.
The rally will be held on Wednesday, April 17, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. On the north steps of the State Capitol in Hartford.