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Wider Health Care Net Urged

Poll Bolsters Call For Government To Do More For Uninsured

March 6, 2007
By COLIN POITRAS, Courant Staff Writer

An overwhelming number of Connecticut voters support expanding public health insurance so thousands of uninsured parents and children can get adequate health care, a poll released Monday shows.

And many of the voters surveyed said they were willing to pay for it, too, the poll's sponsors said.

As the debate over improved access to health care rages on in Connecticut, advocates for children and better health care used the survey results Monday to urge legislators at both the state and federal levels to push for change.

At a press conference sponsored in part by Connecticut Voices for Children, a New Haven-based nonprofit, advocates urged state lawmakers to restore about $2 million in funding for outreach so more low-income children and families could enroll in the state-subsidized HUSKY health care plans.

About 68,000 of those younger than 18, or 8.2 percent of that age group's population, plus about 300,000 adults went uninsured for an entire year in 2005, according to the latest census data on record for Connecticut.

The poll surveyed 400 registered voters between Jan. 26 and Feb. 8. It was funded by the Connecticut Health Foundation and the National Association of Children's Hospitals. It was sponsored by Voices and the New England Alliance for Children's Health.

Advocates Monday also pushed for an increase in HUSKY income eligibility limits to allow working parents and pregnant women to access the same state insurance as their children if their income is low.

"We know when parents are covered, their children get enrolled," said state Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Killingly. Williams and House Speaker James Amann attended Monday's press conference in the legislative office building to show their support.

Increasing reimbursement rates for health care providers so that more participate in HUSKY is also key, advocates said. Dr. Paul Dworkin, physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, said the hospital expects to lose $30 million next year treating HUSKY clients because the reimbursement rates are so low. The hospital gets about 43 cents in reimbursement for every dollar it spends on pediatric care for HUSKY clients, Dworkin said.

Currently, only about 4 percent of the dentists in Connecticut treat HUSKY clients because of the low reimbursements and extensive paperwork associated with the programs, Williams said.

Sharon Langer, a senior policy fellow for Voices, said increasing reimbursement rates and aligning children and families with quality health insurance so they receive regular medical care has payoffs in the long run.

"It is a simple idea - we invest in children's health care, and we get healthy children eager to learn and grow," Langer said. "If we deny health care coverage, we get unhealthy children falling behind in school and unable to become productive members of our society."

The results showed that 89 percent of those surveyed favored expanding Connecticut's HUSKY insurance programs and 94 percent felt providing preventive health care to children through HUSKY was a wise investment, advocates said.

The poll also questioned voters about federal spending. At the federal level, advocates are asking Congress to maintain adequate funding for the State Children's Health Insurance Program or SCHIP, which, along with Medicaid, compensates the state for 50 percent to 65 percent of its costs for HUSKY insurance.

President Bush has proposed reducing federal funds for SCHIP, which could cut off coverage for thousands of Connecticut children. Advocates Monday urged Connecticut's legislative contingent to support a proposal to invest $60 billion over the next five years to maintain and expand SCHIP funding.

Seventy percent of the poll's respondents favored Congress increasing money for SCHIP. At the state level, 85 percent favored increasing HUSKY funds.

In a related matter Monday, freshman Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said he will soon introduce federal legislation to increase SCHIP funding to help states expand their public health insurance programs. The original legislation creating SCHIP expires in September.

The legislation Courtney is working on, known as the Healthy Kids Act, is being spearheaded by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel. Courtney is one of the original co-sponsors of the bill.

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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