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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Connecticut takes the lead

Erin Kelly

Staff Writer

When it comes to implementing health reform, it turns out the old saying “the early bird gets the worm” sums it up pretty well.

On Monday, Connecticut became the first state to take up a newly available option to cover low-income adults without dependent kids through Medicaid. Connecticut has a track record of trying to provide health coverage to very low-income adults (annual incomes of up to 56 percent of the federal poverty level, or $6,650 for a single adult in 2010), but the state provided this coverage all on its own. It was not allowed to tap federal funds and provide full-fledged Medicaid coverage to these people, unless it made other cuts to Medicaid for low-income families and people with disabilities.

As we’ve previously mentioned, before health reform was enacted,

You must have a low income to be eligible for Medicaid, but you also have to meet other requirements (like being a child, a pregnant woman, or a person with a disability). In most states, if you are an adult that does not have dependent children, you cannot qualify for Medicaid, no matter how low your income. Currently, in 42 states, adults without dependent children are not allowed to enroll in Medicaid, even if they are penniless.

But thanks to health reform, states are required to expand their Medicaid program to include everyone up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,352 for a family of three in 2010) in 2014. This new option that Connecticut has taken advantage of allows the state to start covering a portion of these adults (those with income up to 56 percent of the federal poverty level) in Medicaid right away, instead of waiting until 2014.

Governor Jodi Rell remarked,

For many years, Connecticut has provided state assistance to ensure that our most vulnerable single adults have access to health care. Now with this federal help, we will be able to provide increased medical benefits for them through Medicaid while relieving the burden on state taxpayers.

What’s going on in Connecticut is a win-win: low-income adults gets full-scale Medicaid benefits, which are better than the coverage the state provided to them before, and the state gets federal funding to help pay for this coverage, which will help stave off future cuts to Medicaid.