To The Editor:
Medicaid lifts people out of poverty and improves their health. What’s more, children are more likely to be insured and to receive care when their parents are insured, making Medicaid coverage for parents especially effective at promoting well-being for entire families.
Despite this, when faced with an ongoing budget crisis, Connecticut decided to reduce income eligibility limits for parents enrolled in HUSKY A (Medicaid for children and their caregivers) in the 2015 and 2017 state budgets.
Over 11,000 parents lost Medicaid coverage in 2016 and another 13,522 are slated to lose coverage as of January 1, 2019. It is unlikely, however, that these cuts will result in long-term savings.
Nearly 80 percent of caregivers who lost Medicaid coverage after the 2015 reductions had no known insurance as of October 2017, likely due to the difficulty of affording coverage through the health insurance exchange. Increased numbers of uninsured parents, however, may cause an uptick in spending on care for the uninsured.
Uninsured adults are 12 percent more likely than insured adults to go without needed care and 14 percent more likely to postpone care, which may result in the need for costly emergency services and treatment of advanced disease.
Insurance coverage allows adults to prevent ill health and to treat chronic problems that might prevent them from working; it also protects families from catastrophic costs related to an unexpected illness or injury. These are two of the ways in which Medicaid reduces poverty. Also, for every dollar the state “saves” on HUSKY A spending, the state loses a dollar in federal matching funds.
Preventive care can further result in long-term savings. Some preventive savings are direct reductions in healthcare system spending.
For example, investing in comprehensive smoking cessation programs results in substantial savings on hospital admissions for cardiovascular conditions in the near-term.
Similarly, while the Affordable Care Act resulted in an overall increase in health expenditures, it also dramatically increased insurance rates, improved some health outcomes, and decreased the risk of poverty from medical debt.
In other cases, spending on preventive care, social services, insurance coverage, or community improvements can lead to savings beyond traditional health system spending.
For example, treating adults for anxiety and depression has a four-fold return on investment, according to a World Health Organization study.
Treatment of these conditions results in both better health overall and improved ability to work, which ultimately reduces the individual’s need for other services and improves the overall economy.
To achieve the vision of a future Connecticut that is thriving and successful, we must promote equitable opportunity for all our residents by investing in their wellbeing.
Restoring our robust Medicaid program is a part of that vision because children thrive when parents are healthy. Restoring HUSKY A is both the right thing to do and a smart fiscal decision in the long term.
Connecticut Voices for Children