RIDGEFIELD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) attended a meeting of Ridgefield’s Committee on Aging with State Senator Toni Boucher (R-26)at Ridgefield Town Hall on Monday to discuss items in the recently-adopted state budget that affect seniors. During the meeting, which was attended by over 70 concerned citizens, he called on the legislature to have a “sense of urgency” and to commit to restoring funding for approximately 113,000 elderly and disabled people who would lose all or part of their health coverage as a result of cuts to the Medicare Savings Program (MSP). The two-year budget adopted by the General Assembly reduces the income eligibility limits for all categories of participants in the program, in many cases by as much as 50%.
“I am calling on my colleagues in the legislature to recognize that massive harm will be done to Connecticut’s elderly and disabled populations if we do not act immediately to address the provision of the budget that makes unexpected cuts to the MSP,” said Rep. Frey. “We have a moral obligation to stand up for the vulnerable people who depend on this program and cannot afford the drastic increase in healthcare costs. There is no excuse not to act on this pressing issue – the General Assembly needs to be reconvened before the end of the year to fix this and reassure our seniors and disabled populations that they are not forgotten.”
The Department of Social Services (DSS) announced last week that it would delay implementation of eligibility reductions to the state’s MSP program until March 1, 2018, while it conducts a review of coverage alternatives, a development Rep. Frey called “helpful in the short term, but absolutely not a solution or a reason for peace of mind for the 86,000 low-income seniors who would be disqualified from the program and the 27,000 who would have their coverage reduced.” He also noted that many of these seniors might not qualify for alternative coverage.
The reduction of income eligibility for the MSP, which is paid for with Medicaid funding, was carried over from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal. The changes would save the state $53.9 million in 2018 and $130 million in 2019. To explain why cuts to the program were included, Rep. Frey pointed to the devastating impact on the budget of the SEBAC union contract approved in July that locked in expensive state union benefits for ten years.
“Connecticut residents are completely fed up with public sector union agreements like SEBAC getting top priority from the majority party while everyone else is ignored and left wondering what the future holds for them,” said Rep. Frey. “When it came down to locking in expensive benefits for state employees for ten years, majority legislators fell over themselves trying to approve it as quickly as possible – before even working on a state budget. With SEBAC passed, it is painfully obvious that ensuring vulnerable populations have access to healthcare is less of a priority for them as they continue to drag their feet. That sends a disturbing message to Connecticut residents and the rest of the country. Let’s address this problem with the sense of urgency that people worried about their health deserve. We cannot keep them waiting any longer.”
House and Senate leadership are currently discussing a bipartisan plan to restore funding to the MSP and hope to soon announce a day to reconvene both chambers during the week after Christmas.