Lavielle says budget reductions on Medicare need to be fixed immediately

State Rep. Gail Lavielle (R-143) says the legislature should reconvene — preferably this month — and commit to restoring funding for approximately 113,000 elderly and disabled people who would lose all or part of their health coverage as a result of cuts to the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) in the recently adopted state budget.

The two-year budget adopted by the General Assembly reduces the income eligibility limits for all categories of participants in the program, in many cases by as much as 50%, according to a press release from her office.

“Both chambers of the legislature have a moral responsibility to take action immediately and stand up for the seniors who were harmed by this provision in the budget,” she said. “If we do not, seniors and the disabled who currently benefit from the MSP will see an instant and drastic increase in their healthcare costs next year. We have heard from countless constituents and Connecticut seniors who will simply be unable to afford the care they rely on. It is unconscionable to allow this to happen and we need to reconvene sooner rather than later to fix this, preferably before the end of the year.”

The Department of Social Services (DSS) announced on Wednesday it would delay implementation of eligibility reductions to the state’s MSP program until March 1, 2018, while it conducts a review of coverage alternatives, a development Lavielle called “helpful in the short term, but absolutely not a solution or a source of reassurance for the 86,000 low-income seniors who would be disqualified from the program and the 27,000 who would have their coverage reduced.”  She also noted that many of these seniors might not qualify for alternative coverage.

The reduction of income eligibility for the MSP, which is paid for with Medicaid funding, was carried over from Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s budget proposal. The changes would save the state $53.9 million in 2018 and $130 million in 2019.

Lavielle pointed to the impact on the budget of the SEBAC union contract approved in July that locked in expensive state union benefits for 10 years.

“The appalling truth is that because of the SEBAC public-sector union agreement negotiated by Gov. Malloy and approved on a party-line vote exclusively by majority legislators, unionized state employees will continue to receive guaranteed access to retirement healthcare benefits for life and it is being paid for by indigent seniors in Connecticut who are losing theirs,” she said. “Majority legislators refused even to vote for a budget before an agreement with state employee unions was approved. They made it clear that the state unions are a much higher priority for them than Connecticut’s vulnerable elderly and disabled. This sends an ugly message to Connecticut residents and the rest of the country. It is urgent to address the problem.  These people are desperately worried about their health and about their lives. They shouldn’t have to wait for an answer.”

House and Senate leadership are currently discussing the MSP situation and are considering whether to convene before the beginning of the regular session in February.