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Federal and State Changes in Health Coverage Coming to Connecticut

Kevin Counihan head shot
Kevin Counihan head shot
February 13, 2013

HARTFORD, Conn. - Full implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare -- is approaching on Jan. 1. In Connecticut, health care advocates worry that changes mandated by the Internal Revenue Service will make coverage tougher to come by for poor families.

The issue, according to Kevin Counihan, chief executive of Access Health CT, the agency charged with setting up the state's insurance exchange under Obamacare, is whether an employer is paying high enough wages so employees can afford their employer's coverage.

"If an individual's contribution to his or her single coverage - not family - exceeds 9.5 percent of their income,” Counihan said, “they are able to waive out of their employer plan and go into the exchange, where they can get subsidies."

The IRS decision to base the determination on a worker's income, excluding family members, was controversial. Counihan said these workers will need to pay 2 percent of their income toward health coverage, but that's less than they'd pay under many employer plans.

Gov. Dannel Malloy's budget proposal, released last week, calls for reducing Medicaid eligibility from 185 percent to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, which is consistent with the Affordable Care Act. Those cut out must then pay to get insurance through Access Health CT.

One advantage is that only 31 percent of primary-care physicians now accept Medicaid patients, Counihan said, while under the incoming system, “they would no longer be limited to providers that take Medicaid. So it means their access to primary care and specialists would be dramatically increased.”

He said none of these changes will have an impact on the existing Husky Medicaid health insurance program for eligible children.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT