ctnewsjunkie file photo
Elaine Kolb is one of the recipients of the program who would be impacted. (ctnewsjunkie file photo)

HARTFORD, CT — (Updated 2:37 p.m.) The 113,000 seniors and disabled who would be impacted by eligibility reductions to the Medicare Savings Program may be getting a two-month reprieve.

The Department of Social Services announced Wednesday that it’s delaying implementation of the changes to the Medicare Savings Program past January 1, as eligibility reviews are undertaken. This is expected to take at least two months, with no one anticipated to lose eligibility before March 1.

The eligibility changes to the program were expected to go into effect Jan. 1, but impacted residents and advocates flooded legislative offices with phone calls and prompted legislative leaders to hit the pause button.

“Since the passage of the budget in October, we have heard from many seniors and family members with questions and concerns about these changes,” DSS Commissioner Roderick L. Bremby said. “Members of the General Assembly and health care advocates have also expressed concerns about this part of the budget legislation. We want them to know that we are listening. Over the coming weeks, we will be exploring possible coverage alternatives to MSP for current beneficiaries. While most are not likely to qualify for other coverage, we hope this effort will alleviate the financial loss for some.”

The current beneficiaries of the program will see some temporary relief, but the state legislature will have to find the money to continue the program in both the short and the long run. It’s still unclear where that money would come from.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said they would like to find a more permanent solution, but is not certain where the funding will come from to support the program at its current levels.

House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said policy wise they believe the money should be put back into the program.

Last week, legislative leaders expressed concern about the changes they made to the program and said they hoped to restore the funding.

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

Restoring the program to its current levels would add $25 million to the state budget deficit, according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

“While current beneficiaries will receive some temporary relief, this longer phase-in of the Medicare Savings Program eligibility changes will reduce the savings likely to be achieved,” the Department of Social Services said in a statement. “The impact of the increased cost on the overall budget will be addressed in the forthcoming deficit mitigation plan.”

Attorney Sheldon Toubman said they’re happy about the two month delay, but they’re concerned about whether “money for restoration might come from some other part of the already tattered social service safety net.”

He said there needs to be a willingness to raise revenue in order to pay for these services.

The individuals who qualify for the program are unable to obtain health insurance through the exchange because they qualify for Medicare. Also they have incomes around $1,200 per month, which means they wouldn’t be able to afford a Medigap insurance plan, which would cost around $250 per month.