HARTFORD, CT — Legislative leaders from both parties were grateful, but not interested in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s offer to extend benefits to the Medicare Savings Program until July.
Lawmakers and legislative officials said they plan to hold a session Monday to resolve the matter by finding $54 million in savings to continue to support the more than 100,000 elderly and disabled who use the program.
Malloy wrote legislative leaders Wednesday to let them know he directed the Department of Social Services to extend benefits through July 1.
Malloy said based on media reports it seems the decision has been made to find the money to maintain the Medicare Savings Program this year and leave dealing with the full $224 million state budget deficit for a later date.
“If this is the case, I fear that changes made to the MSP now—even if they are paid for in the current year—could still add significantly to our out-year deficits,” Malloy wrote.
But legislative leaders who worked to craft a bipartisan budget without Malloy have not given much weight to what the outgoing governor has to say.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said Thursday that they appreciated the offer, but the General Assembly plans to restore funding for the program Friday.
“It’s a separation of powers issue because even though he says he wants to do this he has no authority to do it under the current budget agreement,” Fasano said.
Liz Connelly, spokeswoman for House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, said they plan to hold a session Friday. The session has since been postponed until Monday, Jan. 8.
“We appreciate the governor’s decision to delay changes to the Medicare Savings Program this fiscal year, and look forward to providing further assurance to those impacted at our scheduled legislative session Friday.”
Those impacted by the program have already been getting mixed messages from the state.
One of the recipients of the program, which helps pay Medicare Part B premiums and co-pays, received two letters on Dec. 21, 2017. One saying she was denied benefits through Feb. 1, 2018 and one saying she was approved for benefits through Sept. 30, 2018.
Currently, the Department of Social Services website says that as of Jan. 3, the benefits have been extended through July 1, 2018.
Under the budget Malloy signed on Oct. 31, 2017, 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.
Lawmakers who initially approved reductions in the program when they approved the budget in a bipartisan manner changed their mind when their offices got flooded with phone calls and emails describing the impact the reduction would have on the 113,000 residents who qualify for the program.
Legislative leaders have yet to share where they will find the spending cuts to restore funding for the program, but they have filed a bill that shows they will take $19.3 million in savings from the teacher’s retirement account, reduce “other expenses” by $10 million, take about $6 million in savings from state managers and consultants, and $1.34 million from a consolidation of human resource functions in the Department of Administrative Services. The changes will restore the Medicare Savings Program for 2018, but not 2019.
There’s additional federal money that the state will receive as a result of the changes and there’s $17.3 million they will take from the 2019 budget to get to the $54 million. That will leave a deficit in 2019 and will open the legislature open to further criticism over their bipartisan budget.
“At first blush, this doesn’t look promising for those at home rooting for achievable savings and containing the deficit,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for Malloy, said. “With that said, we’ll review the proposal in further detail over the coming days.”
Lawmakers are expected to reconvene to deal with the issue on Monday, Jan. 8.