Greenwich couple battles cancer, losing health coverage from new state law

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GREENWICH– In June, Denise El-Tayyeb says she was faced with the unbearable task of telling her husband that he had stage-three gastrointestinal cancer.

“I decided that the best way to tell him was just to say that the results that we got were not what we were expecting. And he’s smart. He looked right at me and said, ‘I have cancer don’t I. I said, ‘yes, you do,’” El-Tayyab said.

A few weeks later, Denise and her husband Akram were dealt another blow. They received a letter, dated July 17, stating that their Husky A health coverage would be terminated starting in August 2016.

The letter was the result of a new Connecticut law lowering the income limit for Husky, Connecticut’s version of Medicaid, from 201 percent of the federal poverty level to 155 percent. The law was passed as part of the state’s new budget in an effort to save Connecticut money during a significant shortfall. It did not eliminate coverage for children and pregnant women.

Denise, the sole earner for her family, made $54,500 a year at the time. She and Akram were no longer eligible for Husky.

“I was worried because I had a year, but at least I had a year. This was day one of chemo and I said, ‘I’ll deal with it. I’ll figure out something,’” El-Tayyab said.

Just two days later, the couple received another letter dated July 18. This one had even more alarming news: It stated that the couple’s health insurance coverage under Husky, as well as their coverage for their three teenage sons, would actually cease on July 31, 2015.

“I was like this, has got to be some kind of mistake. How could they do this?”

Denise turned to Access Health CT, the state’s online insurance exchange through the Affordable Care Act, for coverage. She said the Access Health CT plans had deductibles averaging $10,000, money she claims the family does not have.

Finally, Denise took a desperate leap, asking her employer to give her a 25 percent pay cut, dropping her base salary to $45,000 in order to put the family back on Husky.

“How am I going to pay for food? School clothes? Electricity? Water? Anything? I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. I just knew at that moment I had to save him and I didn’t have any other choice,” Denise said holding hands with Akram.

Fox CT asked the Department of Social Services for answers on this story. DSS said that an appeals hearing had been set up in October for the El-Tayyabs to discuss their coverage.

Denise said she has, thus far, heard nothing in response to her appeal.

A DSS spokesperson also said that Denise and Akram should have coverage for the next year because Denise has income from a job. They were unable to explain why the second cancelation notice was sent. The second letter has a State of Connecticut Health Insurance Exchange letterhead.