Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Rally to save the Medicare Savings Program (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — Democratic and Republican lawmakers agreed again Thursday that they will be returning to Hartford sometime between Christmas Eve and Dec. 29 to restore the Medicare Savings Program.

It will cost them about $54 million to restore the higher eligibility limits for the elderly and disabled who depend upon the program to help them pay for their Medicare Part B premiums and co-pays.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, made the announcement Thursday during a rally at the Legislative Office Building with about 100 individuals who benefit from the program.

With one partisan comment about his Republican colleagues advocating for a reduction in eligibility as recently as 2015, Looney said they have bipartisan support to restore funding for the program.

“It had been part of their policy for a long time,” Looney said. “But I think in a bipartisan way we can address this and recognize there is tremendous hardship involved.”

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Looney’s comment about past Republican proposals was “erroneous and unsubstantiated.”

But aside from that he’s happy to hear Democrats will honor the agreement they made earlier this week to convene a special session before the end of the year.

A majority of the House and the Senate have to petition themselves back into special session. That means 76 House members and 19 Senators would have to submit their petitions to the Secretary of the State.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has refused to call the legislature back into special session. He’s maintained that if they want to reconvene to increase spending then they should also address the $208 million budget deficit.

“The governor maintains that if the legislature is coming in for a special session, they should first address the full deficit facing the state and that what they absolutely should not do is make our fiscal problems worse,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said Thursday.

On Wednesday, Malloy proposed a menu of $189 million in tax increases and $113 million in spending cuts for legislators to choose from.

The governor was obligated to give the legislature a deficit mitigation plan, but so far lawmakers haven’t been interested in negotiating with Malloy, who they cut out of budget talks in September.

Will lawmakers tackle the deficit before the end of the month?

Looney said Thursday that the governor sort of advanced the discussion about the $208 million deficit by releasing his mitigation plan “two weeks early.”

Looney said the deficit will likely be handled separately from the restoration of the Medicare Savings Program.

“Before we can discuss how to proceed with the overall deficit, we must first make good on the agreement we shook hands on last Monday,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. “That is to restore the Medicare Savings Plan cuts that will leave more than 100,000 seniors and disabled people without critical healthcare unless we act. We have to codify this into law to give these people long-term security.”

She said the deficit shouldn’t be part of the discussions at the moment.

Malloy’s decision to release his deficit mitigation “sort of introduces a new track for discussions,” Looney said. “But at this point we haven’t had any discussions on the overall deficit mitigation plan. We have however invited leaders to convene at the beginning of next week to begin those talks.”

Looney said they have a loose agreement on where the $54 million to restore the Medicare Savings Program to the current eligibility levels would need to come from, but he declined to offer any specifics.

Fasano also said after their meeting earlier this week there was an understanding of where the money would come from to restore the program.

“We haven’t fully vetted this with our caucus yet,” Looney said Thursday. “But in any case there is an expectation that we’ll have a bipartisan approach.”

Donnelly said if they know where the $54 million is coming from then they should share that information with the governor’s office.

“While we’d like to see the full deficit addressed, if legislative leaders have an actionable plan for how they will pay for changes to the Medicare Savings Program, we ask that they share those details with us,” Donnelly added. “What’s most important is that any proposal to restore funding is balanced with real and achievable spending cuts. Otherwise, this ‘fix’ would only exacerbate the larger, looming challenges we face.”

Sen. Looney says there will be special session to restore $54 …

Sen. Looney says there will be special session to restore $54 million to Medicare Savings Program. No word yet on deficit solutions.

Posted by on Thursday, December 14, 2017