No one in Connecticut wants to jeopardize access to health care for those who need the help of the state's HUSKY program (Health Care for Uninsured Kids and Youth), such as low-income mothers and children. But they are not alone in their need. We also must advocate for other uninsured people, like the waitresses, the in-home day-care providers, the part-time workers or our neighbors whose employers don't offer health insurance. Until the state's Charter Oak program was introduced, many of these hard-working people were unable to find affordable health care coverage.
Under the plan proposed by the governor and endorsed by the General Assembly, participating health plans were asked to sign contracts with doctors and hospitals for both programs together — HUSKY, the traditional Medicaid program, and Charter Oak, the new program for uninsured adults. Bowing to concerns that linking the two programs was slowing development of the HUSKY networks, the state lifted this condition. Health plans may now contract with hospitals and doctors separately for the two programs. But persistent opposition to the programs continues, with seemingly little concern for the effect that these calls to start over will have on the people who are already participating in them.
We need to give these programs a chance to succeed. Connecticut's vulnerable uninsured population can be well served by these programs as originally structured. We at Aetna encourage our state's leaders to support that success, and to help us spur growth in both networks. We ask them to stand with the health plans that accepted the challenge of partnering with Connecticut to implement this innovative health care model.
Among those who have already benefited is Posey Armistead, 59, of Stamford, a receptionist at a homeless shelter. She knows how frightening and worrisome being without insurance can be. Before joining Charter Oak, Ms. Armistead was without insurance for more than five years, and in pain for eight months. Recently, she was able to see a doctor and has begun the recommended physical therapy. "I'm finally starting to feel better now," she said.
Ms. Armistead got treatment but 300,000 of our neighbors do not have coverage — most because they can't find an affordable plan. Connecticut is a national leader — 91 percent of its residents have health coverage — but we need to keep working toward a system that covers everyone because we all pay for the uninsured in one way or another.
Connecticut can move forward to meet the health care needs in our state. Better still, we can set a standard and create a working model that other states can follow.
The Aetna Better Health team is proving our commitment to these programs, and we're proud of our 100 Connecticut employees who built a network from the ground up in just five months. We make daily progress expanding our HUSKY and Charter Oak networks, and we have met this challenge within the original structure of the program.
When we bid on the state's HUSKY and Charter Oak programs, we knew there would be challenges, but that there was a real opportunity to demonstrate Connecticut's innovation and initiative. We believe that a public-private partnership like this can deliver great results.
Given patience and universal support, we can meet the needs of the state's HUSKY clients. We have hospitals, pediatricians and physicians in our network who are ready to serve the state's individuals, children and families.
And while we serve the HUSKY population, we can give more adults in the Charter Oak program, like Posey Armistead, a chance to have affordable health care coverage and be liberated from the fear of not being able to see a doctor when she needs one.
Let's not rush to dismantle a program that is making steady forward progress. Let's stay on course, listen to each other, find common ground, and put our energy toward a solution rather than further disruption. Let's remember that we're all working toward the same goal — better health coverage for Connecticut residents — and let's achieve it together.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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