Testimony on HB 5035: An Act Adjusting the State Budget for the Biennium

Department of Social Services Budget

Appropriations Committee

February 21, 2018

Submitted By Stephen Karp, LMSW


The National Association of Social Workers, CT Chapter representing over 2600 members urges the Appropriations Committee to restore Medicaid reductions made in the current biennial budget. Health care through Medicaid is a basic safety net support that serves low income individuals who deserve comprehensive health care insurance.


We thank the Legislature for temporarily restoring the Medicare Savings Plan (MSP) and ask that the program continues to be funded at current eligibility. Connecticut is a high cost to live in state and the MSP makes health insurance more affordable to low income older adults and persons with disabilities. The reduction made in the program, prior to restoration, would have left 110,000 without affordable coverage, many literally having to choose between food, housing costs and health care.


We urge that the approximately 13,600 individuals currently on HUSKY A who are facing loss of coverage in 2019 have the peace of mind of knowing they will continue to be covered under HUSKY, by rescinding the planned reduction in eligibility. Over 78% of the parents on the first round of cuts have no known source of health insurance due to coverage being unaffordable. The vast majority of HUSKY parents will not be able to afford coverage, even with subsidized coverage under the Exchange, and it is well documented that when the parents lose health insurance their children are much less likely to receive health care visits even when the child still is covered. So loss of coverage to parents extends to the children.


We oppose the reduction of 5% in the reimbursement rates for primary care providers. It has been shown over and over that increased provider rates increase the number of providers.  It will also put added financial strain on community health centers that provide care to a significant amount of Medicaid recipients and are already facing uncertain state and federal financing. Reducing access to care will ultimately cost the state more by having Medicaid recipients being forced to use more expensive sources of care, such as emergency departments.


Finally, we call upon the Appropriations Committee to rescind the reduction in dental coverage under Medicaid to a $1,000 annual limit. While it is the case that most private dental insurance plans, when offered by employers, typically only cover $1,000-1,200 annually such individuals covered by these plans are employed and can far better cover added costs than a person on Medicaid can. Yes there is a prior authorization process for added care however it can be time demanding on dentists, which may discourage dentists in pursuing given the reimbursement is not sufficient to start with.  Many diseases can be early detected in the mouth and appropriately treated at a lower cost and lower harm to the person, but only if the individual is able to afford regular dental care.


As social workers we daily work with individuals and families who are struggling to care for themselves and their families. The vast majority are working families trying to make ends meet and to move out of poverty or avoid going into poverty. Medicaid is a major lifeline for these individuals and families. As a state with great wealth and high living costs we must support those who rely on Medicaid health insurance coverage. That support means restoring funding cuts made to Medicaid, and once restored, not making new cuts to the Medicaid program.


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