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Increased Medicaid demand felt across Connecticut

Associated Press Modified: November 23, 2012 at 2:00 pm •  Published: November 23, 2012

Barry is not surprised by the numbers. He said the cost of living is high in the region, and about 43 percent of the town's applicants for local emergency assistance are Latino, a younger and less affluent population.

"I think Greenwich is much more diverse than what people view," he said, adding how the recipients are not necessarily newcomers to the border town. Greenwich has a six-month residency requirement for assistance.

Eileen Bronko, a social worker and a former co-chairman of the Naugatuck Social Service Network, is not surprised by the spike in applications either. Average monthly caseloads for needy adults in the blue-collar community of Naugatuck increased from 330 in fiscal year 2010 when SAGA was in place to 592 in fiscal year 2012.

"I think that anybody that thought that this wasn't going to happen was not really looking at the reality of how much people are hurting," she said. "Many, many, many people are without health care. So I think part of what you're seeing is that people can get health care through Medicaid. For the first time, many people are getting health care."

Hartford has experienced the greatest growth, with a monthly average of 6,838 SAGA clients in fiscal year 2010 and a monthly average of 9,866 Medicaid LIA clients is fiscal year 2012.

The numbers are expected to grow more once Connecticut extends coverage further beginning in 2014 as part of the federal health care overhaul law. Those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or $29,700 a year for a family of four, will be eligible.

But the state's budgetary issue may be abated because the federal government is supposed to cover 100 percent of the cost for all low-income adults on Medicaid living up to the 133 percent federal poverty level. That reimbursement level will last until 2016. After that, it will gradually be reduced to 90 percent by 2020.

Sen. Toni Harp, D-New Haven, co-chairman of the Appropriations Committee, said even though the state will receive 100 percent federal reimbursement, it still will have to budget for the Medicaid program, and therefore needs a way to plan for the additional growth.

"I think that what concerns me is, that we were led to believe that the LIA population had stabilized and had slowed down somewhat, only to find out we had 4,000 new people in the first three months," she said. "It's shocking."