HARTFORD — State Representatives John Piscopo (R-76), and David T. Wilson (R-66) last week voted in favor of 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.
“Many people were being affected by the funding cuts to MSP. While we voted to restore funding to this program, the legislature will again have to address the fiscal crisis and deficit that Connecticut faces in the upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers will continue their work to find funding alternatives to support our seniors and those most in need, which depend on these critical resources,” said Rep. Piscopo.
Realizing almost 86,000 low-income seniors would be disqualified and another 27,000 would have their coverage reduced, members from both the House and Senate of the Connecticut General Assembly petitioned the Secretary of the State to call them back into special session in order to restore the previous cut. “I joined my legislative colleagues in supporting our seniors and our citizens most in need, who depend on MSP resources. We were able to restore funding without raising taxes. Unfortunately, Connecticut continues to face an uphill battle in managing the state’s deficit crisis. I will work with my fellow lawmakers in the upcoming 2018 legislative session to continue seeking alternative funding to ensure critical resources are available to those most in need. At the same time we are faced with many hard decisions in CT and it will take sacrifices in many line items and all our towns to get us to a truly balanced budget before this is over,” said Rep. Wilson.
The MSP plan was approved in the House through a 130 – 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.
State senators approved the plan 32 – 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 the state budget.