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Counting Blessings — Or Not

Published: May 31, 2018

For those who have a comprehensive health insurance policy, there is a great sense of gratitude when unexpected illness arises. While it may still involve time consuming attention to file the right documents with the right signatures at the right time, not having to worry — on top of feeling physically and mentally fragile — that the astronomical cost of being sick will send one into bankruptcy is a blessing.

It is a blessing that not everyone can count, though. Many in our own town live daily with the cloud of “What if?” hanging overhead when it comes to health insurance. What if they do not have the funds for a high deductible? What if certain costs and drugs are not covered? What if a doctor or member of a medical team turns out to be out of network? What if they cannot afford the cost of the most minimal coverage each month?

AccessHealthCT has been remarkably successful in Connecticut, providing insurance to thousands, according to their website. But state legislators thankfully took action this month to alleviate worries for others. The bipartisan approved budget allows a rollback for cutbacks that would have made eligibility requirements for Medicare Savings Program more stringent, affecting approximately 113,000 disabled and senior residents of the state. Legislators put back into the approved budget $12 million to reverse restrictions on Medicaid funded health insurance, Husky A. An estimated 13,500 adults with households earning 155 to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($28, 676 to $32,209) who participate in the Husky A plan will retain the state-sponsored coverage, which earlier was threatened with removal from the budget.

It is a start. Even so, it is the poor and nearly poor who suffer and become less able to help themselves through a variety of socioeconomic disadvantages.

Legislative action to raise the current $10.10 minimum wage failed to occur. An Act Concerning Paid Family Medical Leave, including an employee funded program and expanding requirements of certain employers to provide paid sick time, failed to materialize.

Without livable wages and support from employers, every major illness is one step closer to financial disaster for the working poor. The United Way 2016 Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) report shows 17 percent of Newtown residents falling into this category, with an additional four percent of our neighbors in the poverty level.

Costs associated with complicated diagnoses go beyond doctors, hospitals, drugs, and medical costs. There is the cost of transportation to treatment and accommodations, the over-the-counter products recommended, equipment for home care, household help that may be needed, and even the luxuries of beauty and clothing items to ease discomfort. When households live paycheck to paycheck, costs add up — and are sometimes dismissed, leading to a slower recovery.

Treatment of the least of us reflects on all of us. Our state legislators have worked to secure some sense of security for a poorer population. But until wages that reflect economic demands, sick time/family benefits, and affordable health insurance for all dovetail, those who are luckier cannot count their blessings in good conscience.

Our lawmakers must be urged: Health related fears will not be allayed until underlying socioeconomic issues that put the less fortunate at risk are addressed.

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