State Representative Arthur O’Neill (R-69) today joined his legislative colleagues in voting to restore funds for this fiscal year to the state’s important Medicare Savings Plan that were cut with passage of the bipartisan budget late last year.
The Medicare Savings Plan (MSP) is a state program to help seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare coinsurance, deductibles and premiums. The program, administered to qualified individuals based on income eligibility limits, was set to be reduced to the minimum federal eligibility limits. Prior to passage of the current budget, Connecticut was one of five states that exceeded federal eligibility. This fix to the Medicare Savings Plan was required after it was discovered that tens of thousands of seniors or disabled Connecticut residents would lose the benefit upon recent passage of the bipartisan budget.
“I’m relieved we were able to restore these funds to seniors and the disabled population who depend on them,” Rep. O’Neill said. “This change was originally proposed by Governor Malloy but at no time did he or his administration disclose that tens of thousands of people would lose their Medicare coverages. Connecticut increased the eligibility limits several years ago and without this fix those same individuals who received a benefit would have been devastated by having their eligibility slashed, leaving them little time to find alternative ways to afford unexpected and hefty medical bills.”
To close the $53.9 million gap, legislators consolidated human resource functions into the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), required reductions to state employee managers and consultants, required the governor to achieve balance of agencies’ “other expenses” within the budget – and specified those savings must come from the executive branch only and are limited to a 10% cut for any one program – and eliminated a carryforward in the budget from FY18 to FY 19 because it’s not good policy to move money into the following year’s budget when our state is currently in deficit. Many of these savings were promoted under Governor Malloy’s deficit mitigation plan, but not put into effect by the governor.
If not adjusted, the program eligibility changes were estimated to potentially affect more than 100,000 individuals across the state. As a stopgap measure, the Department of Social Services (DSS) delayed implementation for two months past the January 1 deadline. However, Republican lawmakers didn’t want to wait until the next regular session to make changes and started a successful legislative petition drive by gathering enough signatures from Representatives and State Senators to force the special session. In an apparent attempt at oneupmanship to embarrass the legislature the Governor purportedly postponed the implementation of the Medicaid changes cancelling the legislatively mandated cut to the program. And in a bizarre move, the governor has recently threatened to veto this correction to the budget.