State lawmakers mull Medicaid expansion

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NORWALK -

State lawmakers discussed ways to make doctor visits more affordable Tuesday as an option to help the more than 200,000 Connecticut residents without health insurance.

"They cannot afford their medications," says Mindy Garcia, of the Norwalk Community Health Center. "They cannot afford to see the doctor, so it does put them in a really bad situation."

The Norwalk Community Health Center says it sees uninsured people every day. They earn too much money to qualify for HUSKY, which encompasses Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program in Connecticut, but too little to afford a plan under former President Barack Obama's health care law.

State lawmakers are considering a new plan called HUSKY E -- which would essentially open up Medicaid to everyone.

Recipients would have to pay a monthly premium and purchase a plan from the state, but they would get the advantage of Medicaid's bargaining power to negotiate lower rates from doctors and pharmacies.

But the state Department of Social Services warned lawmakers Tuesday that a massive HUSKY expansion would carry a corresponding price tag.

"Without additional resources, this legislation would result in a significant strain on department staff and would come at a substantial cost," said Roderick Bremby, the state's social services commissioner.

Other critics say a poorly designed program could harm Medicaid.

Lawmakers who support the expansion say they want to implement it quickly -- before a new governor takes office next year.

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