State Rep. Bill Buckbee (R-67) has co-sponsored and voted for a plan that would provide funding for services and benefits to enrollees of the Medicare Savings Program (MSP) through the end of the fiscal year.

The legislation was approved in the House by an overwhelming bipartisan majority with a final vote tally of 130 to 3.

MSP is a Medicaid program that helps seniors and the disabled pay for Medicare co-insurance, deductibles and premiums.

Connecticut was one of five states whose income eligibility limits exceeded the federally established level for program qualification.

The budget that was adopted in October reduced the eligibility to the federal standard, consequently reducing or eliminating coverage for many of the program’s participants.

This oversight was the reason for the General Assembly convened in order to ensure those who had qualified through the old standards do not see a lapse in benefits or services.

It should also be noted that the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) in December announced it would delay implementation of the eligibility reduction by two months, giving participants of the program a reprieve from an unexpected jump in their healthcare costs as the state legislature worked to find $53 million to fund the program through June.

“First, I would like to thank all of those who brought this to my attention,” Buckbee said. “I heard from many of you and because of those communications I was able to accurately articulate your concerns to my legislative colleagues.”

“This was a grave mistake when the bipartisan budget was adopted and I am proud to say that the support to correct this oversight was overwhelming from both sides of the aisle,” he said. “It is a core function of government to support our seniors and those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, so it is positive that both parties are on the same page about.”

However, it is important to realize that the action taken does not serve as a permanent solution,” he pointed out. “Connecticut’s poor fiscal reality remains a constant factor in determining how state funds are allocated. As such, funding MSP for the out years will continue to be difficult, but I will remain steadfast in advocating for adequate resources to be provided to these communities.”

Some of the methods used to restore program funding include a requirement that the governor reduce the number of managers and consultants. This was actually a provision previously included in the adopted budget, but to date has been ignored by the governor.

Additional components include streamlining agency responsibility by moving human resources-related functions of some state agencies into the state’s Department of Administrative Services, and requiring the governor to find savings in Executive Branch functions while limiting his ability to cut more than 10 percent from any one program.

State senators approved the plan 32-1 in a vote later in the day.

The 2018 legislative session will convene Feb. 7 and will focus on improvements to the state budget, including future funding mechanisms for MSP.