HARTFORD—State Representatives Jay Case (R-63) and Brian Ohler (R-64) on Tuesday voted for a bipartisan plan that would provide funding for services and benefits to enrollees of the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) through the end of the fiscal year.
MSP is a Medicaid program that helps seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare co-insurance, deductibles and premiums. Connecticut was one of five states whose income eligibility limits exceeded the federally established level for program qualification. The budget that was adopted in October reduced the eligibility to the federal standard, consequently reducing or eliminating coverage for many of the program’s participants. This oversight was the reason for the General Assembly convened in order to ensure those who had qualified through the old standards do not see a lapse in benefits or services.
It should also be noted that the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) in December announced it would delay implementation of the eligibility reduction by two months, giving participants of the program a reprieve from an unexpected jump in their healthcare costs as the state legislature worked to find $53 million to fund the program through June.
“Overall, it was a positive action taken by the legislature to ensure funding is allocated to our seniors and those living with intellectual and developmental disabilities that have qualified for MSP benefits and services. Connecticut’s poor fiscal reality, however, remains a constant factor in determining how state funds are allocated. As such, funding MSP for the out years will continue to be difficult, but I will remain steadfast in advocating for adequate resources to be provided to these communities,” said Case. “Regardless, the support to correct the budgetary oversight came strongly from both sides of the aisle. Although, it is important to realize that the action taken on Tuesday does not serve as a permanent solution.”
Ohler went on to say, “This vote to correct the MSP is long overdue but I am pleased to see that it passed the House with a veto proof majority. These reductions targeted our most vulnerable residents. The budget that was passed in the fall was far from perfect. When issues arise, it’s critical that we exploit any underlying issues and find the necessary solutions that best correct the problem. The 2018 session will undoubtedly be driven and steered by efforts addressing deficit mitigation.”
The MSP plan was approved in the House through a 130 to 3 vote. Some of the methods used to restore program funding include a requirement that the governor reduce the number of managers and consultants. This was actually a provision previously included in the adopted budget, but to date has been ignored by the governor.
Additional components include streamlining agency responsibility by moving human resources-related functions of some state agencies into the state’s Department of Administrative Services, and requiring the governor to find savings in Executive Branch functions while limiting his ability to cut more than 10 percent from any one program.
State senators approved the plan 32-1 in a vote later in the day.