Medicare program will be extended 2 months
Updated 4:29 pm, Wednesday, December 6, 2017
HARTFORD — About 113,000 elderly Connecticut residents will retain their current levels of benefits from the Medicare Savings Program for at least an additional two months, legislators announced.
Income thresholds for participation in the program had been scheduled to drop by about 50 percent on Jan. 1, but now the benefits will continue through February. Estimated cost to the state was $25 million.
"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 in a Wednesday morning statement.
"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,” Bremby said. “While most are not likely to qualify for other coverage, we hope this effort will alleviate the financial loss for some."
The state Department of Social Services on Wednesday said that a review of the program will take two months and then a new termination date will be announced.
Senate President Pro Tempore Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said the DSS announcement was “helpful” in the short term. “Obviously we would like to get a permanent resolution of that rather than a temporary postponement,” he said.
Leaders of the House and Senate said Wednesday, after a half-hour meeting with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, that they will continue to monitor the need for legislative action to retain benefits that include payments for Medicare Part B premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
“Time will be spent doing reviews of individual cases, so that we can understand implications and what programs folks might otherwise qualify for,” Malloy said. “In light of the statements that members of the legislature, particularly the leadership, were making, we felt that was the right thing to do.”
Malloy, speaking with reporters outside his office after the meeting with Republican and Democratic leaders, said they told him they expect to hold a special session before the end of the month, but Republican and Democratic caucuses said that is less likely.
Lingering budget issues include the state’s $207 million deficit in the first year of the $41.3 billion spending plan, plus the additional $25 million for Medicare, along with the desire for lawmakers to raise certain levels of municipal aid. Malloy has until the end of the month to announce a deficit-mitigation plan, most likely reducing spending to deal with the deficit.
“I think the new reality ...is that there is going to be constant conversation in this building and the sharing of ideas,” Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said, referring to the bipartisan approach to the new state budget. “We’re having discussions but there is no plan for a special session at this time.”
“It’s good that people will not suffer that loss as of Jan. 1, but we believe policy-wise that that money should be put back,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “We’re going to continue those conversations to get to that point.”
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