Low-income residents in the New Haven area are generally content with their new level of access to health care granted by the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, according to a report released last week.
Christian Community Action, a social service organization based in New Haven, carried out the survey in conjunction with the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs in hopes of identifying issues faced by residents who enrolled in insurance plans through Connecticut’s health exchange network, Access Health CT, in the past year. One hundred four individuals who qualify for Medicaid, predominantly from New Haven, were randomly selected and interviewed for the project. Although some interviewees said they were misinformed about their dental coverage, most respondents seemed pleased with their overall health plans.
“The thing that surprised us in the advocate community was how positive the interviews were and how happy people were overall,” said Jane McNichol, executive director of the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut, which runs the Connecticut Alliance for Basic Human Needs.
During the first half of 2014, 156,815 people enrolled in HUSKY, Connecticut’s Medicaid program, representing a 20.6 percent increase in enrollment from December 2013, the report found.
Eighty to 90 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their health care plans and coverage.
“This is what health care should be,” Ambrose, one of the interviewees identified only by first name, said in the report.
Though more individuals in Connecticut now have access to health care than in previous years, the report highlighted several problems that still remain to be addressed.
Many interviewees expressed confusion about the HUSKY plan’s dental coverage, McNichol said.
The administrative service organization BeneCare is responsible for coordinating access to dental care under HUSKY. The report recommended that information about the services and contact information for BeneCare be made explicitly available to new HUSKY recipients so they are aware of their dental plan options.
In addition, the report encourages churches and other community organizations to help spread the word about benefits for which members qualify, since 40 respondents said that they heard about the health care expansion from family or friends.
Access to specialists was also mentioned as a cause for worry, particularly among low-income individuals with chronic illnesses who are still having difficulty finding affordable specialty care.
In general, the report emphasized the need to improve communications between Access Health CT and Connecticut’s Department of Social Services, the overseer of HUSKY.
The project was funded by a grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, which focuses on health equity issues.
“We see the value of capturing stories as a way to understand where policies are working and where there are opportunities for improvement,” said Elizabeth Krause, vice president of policy and communications for CT Health. “We felt that these voices had important things to say about improving the ACA.”
She added that health care policy makers should read the recommendations in the report to ensure that health care delivery adapts to consumers’ preferences.
About 75 percent of respondents said they had help in signing up for health care coverage.