Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, Senate Republican President Len Fasano, Senate President Martin Looney, and House Minority Leader Themis Klarides (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Legislative leaders said they’ve heard the concerns of the 113,000 elderly and disabled who would lose all or part of their health coverage under the two-year budget they recently adopted and they want to return before Jan. 1, 2018 to find the funding.

“We’ve all recognized that we should look at the issue and something should be done,” Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said about funding for the Medicare Savings Program.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the program, which helps recipients pay their Medicare Part B premiums, is the one issue that’s gotten the most phone calls.

“The Medicare Savings is a big deal,” Klarides said. “It’s crossed all socio-economic lines, it’s crossed urban, suburban, rural areas. It’s something we had concerns about.”

The two-year, $41.3 billion budget the General Assembly passed in October reduced the income eligibility limit for the program from $2,120 per month to $1,025 per month for a single person, and from $2,854 per month to $1,374 per month for a couple.

About 86,000 individuals would lose all of their eligibility for coverage, and about 27,000 would lose part of their coverage as a result of the cuts, according to the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Currently, DSS pays Medicare Part B premiums for low-income elderly and disabled adults earning less than 246 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $29,667 annually. Part B covers things like doctor visits, lab tests and outpatient care. Those earning less than 234 percent of the poverty level, or about $28,220 annually, can receive additional help covering co-pays, deductibles and prescriptions.

In January, under the recently approved budget, those earning less than 100 percent of the poverty level — or $12,060 annually — will qualify to receive all benefits under the program, and those receiving subsidies for premiums alone must earn less than 135 percent of the poverty level to be considered for eligibility. The reduction in benefits is the minimum allowed under federal law.

The reduction in benefits for the Medicare Savings Program, which is paid for with Medicaid funding, were carried forward from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget. The changes would save the state $27.35 million in 2018 and $69.5 million in 2019.

“It was part of the governor’s original budget proposal, so it was part of consensus building with the administration,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said.

But the Malloy administration would not describe it as a negotiation.

“All four caucuses proposed a cut to the Medicare Savings account in their various budget proposals,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said. “The reality is that they agreed to this level of cut. In fact, their members, on a bipartisan basis, voted overwhelmingly for it.”

Notices went out to recipients of the program on Nov. 18.

Klarides said legislative leaders want to tackle the problems they face in the order that they will be affecting the citizens of Connecticut.

Since the current program would end Dec. 31 that means they’re looking at returning for a special session at some point in December.

It’s still too soon to say whether they will be forced at that time to also address the budget deficit.

The Office of Policy and Management estimates the state is facing a $202.8 million budget deficit in 2018, which is greater than 1 percent of the general fund.

House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, said they would wait to see what happens Friday, Dec. 1, and whether state Comptroller Kevin Lembo certifies a deficit before considering a special session to address it.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Ritter said. “We gotta wait and see.”

Legislative leaders discuss returning for a special session in December to restore funding for a Medicaid program.

Posted by on Wednesday, November 29, 2017