HARTFORD – State Representative John Frey (R-111) on Tuesday voted for a bipartisan plan that would provide funding for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) through the end of the fiscal year. Last month, the legislators successfully petitioned the General Assembly back into special session in order to address the issue.
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 eligibly limits exceeded the federal minimum level. In adopting the bipartisan budget in October, legislators reduced the eligibility to the federal minimum, consequently reducing or eliminating coverage for many of the program’s thousands of participants. The state’s Department of Social Services in December announced it would delay implementation of the eligibility reduction by two months, giving concerned program participants a reprieve from an unexpected jump in their healthcare costs as lawmakers worked to find $53 million to fund the program through June.
In December, Rep. Frey said the legislature had a “moral obligation” to reconvene and restore funding for this program in order to stop the harm that this provision of the budget would have on seniors and disabled populations.
“About 280 Ridgefielders rely on assistance from MSP, so today we are doing what is right for seniors in Ridgefield and across Connecticut,” said Rep. Frey. “It simply wasn’t acceptable not to address the harm that abruptly losing all of part of their healthcare coverage would cause low-income seniors and people with disabilities. After today, these vulnerable populations will have funding for their health coverage restored. However, the state cannot let something like this happen again. We have to continue to address our persistent budget deficit and pass policies that will stabilize and grow our economy.”
The MSP plan was approved in the House on a 130 to 3 vote. Among the methods used to restore program funding is a requirement that Governor Malloy reduce the number of managers and consultants—a provision included in the adopted budget ignored by the governor. Other components include 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.
The State Senate approved the plan 32-1 in a vote later in the day. It now goes to Governor Malloy’s desk for consideration. Although he has floated the idea of vetoing the bill, the plan passed with veto-proof majorities in both chambers.
The 2018 legislative session—a so-called short session—starts Feb. 7 and will see lawmakers focus primarily on issues tied to the state budget.