HARTFORD –State Representative Gail Lavielle (R-143) on Monday voted for a bipartisan plan that would provide funding for the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) through the end of the current fiscal year.
MSP is a Medicaid program that helps seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare co-insurance, deductibles and premiums. Before the state budget passed, Connecticut was one of five states whose income eligibly limits exceeded the federal minimum level. In adopting the budget in October, the legislature, carrying over a provision included in Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal, 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 then announced in December that 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. Lavielle said the legislature had a “moral responsibility” to reconvene and restore funding for this program in order to stop the harm that this provision of the budget would cause for seniors and disabled populations.
“It is an encouraging sign that the legislature was able to respond swiftly and decisively to the outcry over these unexpected cuts to the MSP, and that the plan to restore its funding was drafted and approved on a bipartisan basis,” said Rep. Lavielle. “During our short session that begins in February, we must make it a priority to ensure that health coverage for seniors, people with disabilities, and other vulnerable populations remains secure as the budget deficit persists. To avoid similar issues in the future, it will be imperative to make major structural changes to the state’s finances, including measures to halt the precipitous growth of the state’s employment benefits costs.”
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 Gov. 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.
The 2018 legislative session — a “short session” — starts Feb. 7 and will see lawmakers focus primarily on issues tied to the state budget.