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Local Representatives Vote to Reverse Cuts to Medicare Program

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HARTFORDState Representatives Kathleen McCarty (R-38), Holly Cheeseman (R-37) and Mike France (R-42) on Monday voted for a bipartisan plan that would provide funding for 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 federal minimum level. Legislators in adopting the budget in October 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.

“After listening to the seniors in my district, I knew it was crucial that the Legislature come into a Special Session yesterday to restore the Medicare Savings Program,” said Rep. McCarty. “Had we not fully reestablished the program to continue its current funding, nearly 1,000 senior citizens and individuals with disabilities would have been very seriously and significantly impacted. This is not a surplus benefit for these individuals, it is a basic essential. Without it, many would have been forced to make harsh budget decisions between affording healthcare or other necessities like groceries and medications. I am relieved that we were able to prevent such devastation at this time. This fix has allowed seniors and disabled individuals time to plan for the proper coverage they need, and will help them avoid having to rely on expensive emergency rooms for care.”

“We owe it to our seniors to not just abandon them in limbo,” said Rep. Cheeseman. “The most important thing about resolving this issue was to address it immediately so that we could eliminate the uncertainty Medicare patients were facing. I am pleased that we have done that today, but know we must continue looking for a long-term solution.”

“Connecticut’s perpetual fiscal crisis has made every aspect of running this state increasingly difficult,” Rep. France said. “Fortunately, we reached a bipartisan solution today to restore the funding but we must realize that important programs that serve our seniors and disabled residents, such as the Medicare Savings Program, are not immune from the pressures caused by ongoing massive budget deficits and an economy that still has not recovered from the recession.”

The MSP plan was approved in the House by a vote of 130 to 3. 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 Senate approved the plan 32 to 1 in a vote later in the day.

The 2018 legislative session—a so-called short session—starts Feb. 7 and will see lawmakers focus primarily on issues tied to budgetary issues.