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A Prayer For The Poor: Give Husky Another Year

by Susan Campbell

May 07, 2008

In April, Maria Gonzalez and her 15-year-old daughter, who are clients of the state's Husky program, were required to choose a new insurance plan because their original company, Health Net, was no longer part of the program.

Gonzalez's doctor, who has been treating her since she moved from Brooklyn to Meriden in 1990, applied to be a part of Medicaid, and he suggested she do the same.

The process took a while, but Gonzalez's doctor was game because he wanted to keep his patient on the same health regimen. Gonzalez, who works at the Meriden library, still has trouble finding specialists to treat her diabetes and fibromyalgia, but so far she's cautiously optimistic.

That could change starting in July, when the governor wants up to 320,000 Husky clients — most of them children — to move yet again into yet another program. One advocate called the switch — which is stretched out over six months — a "slow-motion train wreck."

The governor has also combined the bidding process for her flawed Charter Oak Health Plan insurance program with the Husky changes. Why? I wish I knew.

When did health care get so complicated? Spend down. Co-pay. Medicare. No, Medicaid. Better not to get sick, or old — or to be at the mercy of public programs that can change at a moment's notice.

A bill before legislators — and the short session ends today — delays any changes to Husky for a year. The bill also calls for a study of the services the program provides, and it separates it from Charter Oak, as it should be. Let the governor's plan sink or swim on its own, but don't attach it to Husky, for which the latter two years have already been fraught with changes.

Families fear for their coverage. Gonzalez isn't sure her doctor is willing to go through the hassle of qualifying yet again, especially when her new insurance might be a for-profit organization with a financial incentive to deny coverage.

Jennifer C. Jaff started Advocacy for Patients With Chronic Illnesses Inc. after fighting her own battle against Crohn's disease, doctors and insurance companies. She hears these stories — and worse — all the time. Ask her about the Crohn's patient whose doctor kept him on pain medication for a solid year, rather than treat the disease. Ever wonder why so many people with chronic illnesses take antidepressants?

Jaff collects the stories — and then, to the tune of roughly $1 million in free legal advice so far, she works to help clients get health care. The patients pay her nothing; her Farmington organization is donor-dependent. Oddly, it's not easy to persuade people to contribute — which is strange, considering the sorry shape of health care in Connecticut. If you're covered by a decent plan through your work, good for you. Outside of a good plan, the world is cold and ugly.

Jaff, who pays $800 a month for health insurance, says that if we're ever going to get a handle on adequate health-care access, we have to address chronic illnesses like hers and get help for people with pre-existing conditions.

This is personal for people like Gonzalez and Jaff. They fear what awaits them if they don't have coverage. Gonzalez belongs to the advocacy group Connecticut Parent Power, whose members came to the Capitol Tuesday to plead that Husky be left alone, at least for a year. Let's hope someone heard them.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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