On Tuesday night, Hartford’s recently formed Health Insurance Task Force (HITF) examined a plan that might make their job a whole lot easier. State officials from the Department of Social Services (DDS) presented the details of Governor Jodi Rell’s Charter Oak Health Plan, which would provide relatively low-cost insurance to those not covered by government programs, such as the HUSKY program or Medicaid.
The presentation was made at Hartford City Hall, about 200 yards from where the plan’s namesake, the Charter Oak Tree, once stood. Connecticut’s Charter was hid in the tree in 1687 to prevent it from being seized by royal authorities.
The HITF was formed earlier this year by Mayor Eddie Perez and charged with finding a way to provide affordable health insurance for the estimated 30,000 city residents who are currently uninsured or underinsured.
The Charter Oak Plan was announced last year and could go into effect as early as July of this year, said DSS Commissioner Michael Starkowski. The program is open to all Connecticut residents who are uninsured and not currently enrolled in any government healthcare program. The program is voluntary, unlike the state health plan in Massachusetts, which requires all residents to have some type of healthcare coverage. Starkowski said that because so many people have enrolled in the Massachusetts plan that the state’s extensive system of medical facilities are now being strained to the limit.
The Charter Oak Plan is designed for working people who cannot get insurance from their employer or pay for it themselves.
Basically, those enrolled in the plan would pay monthly premiums ranging from $75 – $250, depending on income.
Income levels are calculated as a percentage of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). A person making 150 percent of the FPL or less would have a monthly premium of $75 with a maximum individual deductible of $150. A single person making $15,600 or less annually would qualify for this category, according to the report submitted to the HITF by DSS officials Tuesday night. At the other end of the scale, uninsured persons making 300 percent of the FPL or more (e.g.: a single person making $31,200 or more annually) would pay a monthly premium of $250 with a maximum deductible of $900.
The Charter Oak Plan also includes co-pays as well as deductibles depending on the type of service provided. For complete details, visit the website: ct.gov/dss and click on “Charter Oak.”
At the conclusion of Starkowski’s presentation, HITF member Kevin Kinsella of Hartford Hospital asked him if there was some way that the City of Hartford could contribute money to the plan in exchange for making it more affordable for city residents.
Starkowski replied in the affirmative. “The City of Hartford could help defray some of the cost for its residents. It’s something the City should consider and an idea we would be willing to entertain,” he said.
Starkowski also said that the city could assist the state by helping to promote the Charter Oak Plan to its residents, particularly minorities who are less likely to have health insurance than their white counterparts.
According to the DSS report presented Tuesday, while whites constitute 76 percent of Connecticut’s population, they account for only 45 percent of those without insurance. On the other hand, African-Americans make up nine percent of the population but 11 percent of the uninsured. The numbers for Hispanics are even more dramatic. Currently, Hispanics make up only one tenth of the state’s population but account for over one third of those who are uninsured in Connecticut.
In addition to the Charter Oak Plan, Starkowski said an outreach program aimed at Hispanics might help reduce the number of those uninsured but eligible for plans aside from those offered by the government. For instance, according to the DSS report, 21 percent of uninsured Hispanics adults are eligible for healthcare from their employer.
Starkowski also pointed out that many Hartford residents are currently making use of State Health plans, especially the Husky A Plan, which is designed for children and low-income adults. Of the 458,150 state residents currently utilizing DSS health programs, 49,450 are Hartford residents.