Lawmakers are making a last-minute effort to extend Medicaid, known as HUSKY in Connecticut, to undocumented children, a priority Democrats have been pushing for in recent years.
Under a bill released on Monday, just two days before the end of the 2021 regular session, children eight and under – regardless of their immigration status – would be eligible for HUSKY coverage if their household earns up to 323% of the threshold federal poverty. The qualifying income level depends on the number of people in the household. The allowable limit for a one-person household is $ 41,603; that’s $ 14,664 more for each additional member, so the limit for a household of four would be $ 85,595 and for a household of six would be $ 114,923.
The state’s Office of Fiscal Analysis has estimated that approximately 1,900 children would be eligible for coverage, with a cost to the state of about $ 700,000 in year one and $ 4.1 million in year two as more people sign on to the plan.
Eligibility would increase as of January 1, 2022.
“The idea that children in our state should have health insurance is, frankly, a moral question. It’s the right thing to do, ”said Senator Matthew Lesser, D-Middletown, author of the bill. “We are a compassionate state that values the lives, health and safety of children. “
The bill also directs the Department of Social Services to develop four-year plans to extend HUSKY to children between the ages of nine and 18, regardless of immigration status, and adults whose household income does not exceed not 200% of the poverty line are eligible for medical assistance because of their household income).
A previous proposal issued in 2019 to open the HUSKY program to undocumented children up to the age of 18 has died because the expansion would have cost $ 53 million – an amount that lawmakers felt was too high for the time. With renewed enthusiasm this year, they noted that the move would save the state money, as many undocumented children receive emergency health care and the cost of unpaid care is high.
“These kids live in our state, their parents contribute to our state, regardless of how they got here,” said Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, a key promoter. “We should treat these children from a humanitarian point of view to make sure they have access to health care in a way that does not go through an emergency room or free care clinic when they are really falling.” , really sick. “
The bill would also extend prenatal care through HUSKY to women in households earning up to 263% of the federal poverty level. This coverage would begin April 1, 2022 and cost the state $ 500,000 in year one and $ 2.8 million in year two. Up to 1,400 women would be eligible.
In addition, the measure would provide up to one year of postnatal care through HUSKY to women whose households do not exceed 263% of the federal poverty line. It would also open coverage to about 1,400 women and cost the state $ 750,000 in year one and $ 5 million in year two.
The measure is expected to be voted on in the House on Tuesday and still needs Senate approval before the legislature rises at midnight Wednesday.
“This effort took many years in preparation – and has now been achieved through a gradual process where young children… [would] be eligible for the wide range of health services and access afforded to all children in Connecticut, ”said Jay Sicklick, deputy director of the Center for Children’s Advocacy, which has been pushing for expansion for years. “We hope that this process will continue over the next four years so that all children under the age of 18 are eventually covered and that the legislature and administration will work together to provide the necessary funding to make this program a success. crucial importance a reality. “
Grants to the health insurance stock exchange
Democratic lawmakers had also pushed to expand HUSKY A, the state’s Medicaid-funded health insurance program for children and parents in low-income households and pregnant women. Under a plan released this spring, the eligibility limit would drop from 160% to 175% of the federal poverty line, extending coverage to 8,000 more people.
But Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration suggested a counter-proposal: use the funding to instead create additional grants on the state’s insurance exchange, Access Health CT, which would cover premiums and deductibles for about 40,000 residents. The state will also pursue a Medicaid 1115 exemption to help these people access “wrap-around” services, such as dental coverage, medical transportation, and other care provided under the Medicaid program.
Individuals with a household income of 175% or less of the federal poverty line would be eligible for grants.
Lawmakers said on Monday they had reached an agreement to pass Lamont’s proposal instead of the HUSKY A extension of the state budget which is expected to be voted on in the coming days.