Friday’s Medicaid Council meeting focused on DSS and AccessHealthCT’s plans to alert 17,688 working parents that their HUSKY benefits will end August 1st. The cut was passed in last year’s state budget and 1,215 parents lost coverage last year, but the large majority qualified for another year of HUSKY under federal law. In good news, of the 1,215 cohort that lost coverage last year, about half qualified to remain on HUSKY through a different eligibility category. In bad news, only 7% are currently enrolled in insurance plans through AccessHealthCT. The remainder are likely uninsured. In more bad news, among the small number who initially enrolled in an AccessHealthCT plan, the number who have cancelled their coverage has more than doubled from November to May – likely because of the considerable expense to working families. In addition to informing people about insurance options, Council members urged DSS and AccessHealthCT to include information helpful to people who don’t qualify to stay on HUSKY and can’t afford expensive insurance plans, even with subsidies, so they can plan to preserve their health. Such information could include getting preventive care appointments and getting refills for maintenance medications before August 1st, as well as talking to providers about continuing care, setting up payment plans for ongoing health problems after coverage ends.
We also heard about encouraging progress by DSS in reducing phone wait times. About half of callers needs are accommodated through the interactive voice response system. The average caller waits 9 minutes to speak with a live worker; down from 47 minutes in April 2015. Only 18% of callers who need to speak to a live worker are abandoning their call. In response to a question, DSS cannot determine how many of those abandoned callers call back later or how many eventually lose coverage in the program.