Bureaucra-HUSKY

HUSKY, you may remember, is an anagram for Healthcare for Uninsured Kids and Youth. Two years ago, this program went into effect and outreach workers went into action. They've been trying ever since to sign up the children of low-income families to ensure they get healthcare benefits.

It isn't easy. People in low-wage jobs, living in what's sometimes called the shadow economy, are particularly hard to reach. They may change their address often, perhaps they don't speak English, or they may mistakenly believe the HUSKY program is only for welfare recipients -- and therefore something to avoid. In large part because they don't want to give what's required of anyone getting welfare benefits -- namely, information about their assets. They prefer their privacy.

In any case, despite the problems, the state did manage in 1999 to sign up Connecticut kids, perhaps as many as half of the 90,000 or so thought to be uninsured. But as the second year of the program began, mysteriously kids started to drop out at an alarming rate. In Bridgeport, according to the Child Advocacy Coalition, of more than 5,000 new enrollees in HUSKY, only 941 remained at the end of the first year. Why so many lost?

The group's director, Marilyn Ondrasik, says a big reason is that the form the families were asked to fill out at the end of the first year as part of what's called a redetermination process was in fact a standard welfare eligibility application, asking all sorts of personal questions. But instead of getting rid of that inappropriate form months ago, it took legislative action just this past week to pressure the Department of Social Services -- which blamed computers and bureaucracy -- to agree to change it.

How crazy is it that, as the state spends big bucks to push a program, barriers are being erected by the very agency meant to administer it. Joanne Linarte
Norwalk, CT

I agree that the inappropriate forms should be changed. I also want to add that it has been said by lawyers and doctors that if you can avoid it don't get on. That they don't tell you everything. That in fact it's fine if you want to stay at that level, but if you manage to get off you have to pay back, and you will never get out from under.

I've been in court to get my child support payments monitored, and it is scary because there you observe others with unbelievable debts owed to the state. I'm talking about $60,000-$100,000+ that they can't pay back. It is true that the state may have you pay $10.00 a week -- what for the rest of your natural life? This of course must be welfare payments too. I'm really not sure how funds added up so high.

It just goes to show you can't get nothing for nothing. But then when you hear that these funds were set up with large amounts given to each state, why is it that it has to be paid back?

I questioned a few people at DSS, and I got bounced around a bit. But I was told that there are circumstances, such as if you come into money, or a car accident that awards you a settlement, that they would be able to take the money. An inheritance later in life, you would have to pay back. Then someone else says no, that you don't have to pay back. So which is it? I'd like to find out.