Lawmakers are considering reinstating an asset test to help direct funds in the state’s Medicare Savings Program to those in need.
The asset test proposal included in Gov. Ned Lamont’s spending plan for the next two fiscal years would look at how much enrollees have in property and investments. Seniors would have to have assets under a certain threshold in order to qualify for the savings program. Currently, eligibility is based solely on income.
“Connecticut is one of four states with no asset test,” said state Rep. Tami Zawistowski, R-East Granby, who introduced a bill in support of the measure. “I want to see the money go to those who really need it. Wealthy people shouldn’t be on the program. It’s a fairness issue.”
Connecticut had an asset test for the programs prior to the 2010 fiscal year but it was eliminated to loosen eligibilty requirements.
Critics of the proposal have said an asset test would have a limited impact because residents can pass the test by putting assets into a trust, give them to family members or by purchasing certain protected items.
The Medicare Savings Program helps residents afford health care costs like copays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket charges. The program is funded by state-funded Medicaid.
An asset test would review people’s savings and checking accounts, stocks and bonds. Individuals could have certain assets with a total value under $7,560, or $11,340 for couples, to qualify for the savings program.
Assets that do not count against enrollees include a person’s primary home, one car, a burial plot, up to $1,500 in a burial account, and other household and personal items.
”At this point everything needs to be on the table,” said state Rep. Catherine Abercrombie, D- Meriden, who chairs the Human Services Committee. “Where it gets challenging is where there are people with means.”
An asset test would eliminate 15,000 to 18,000 people from the program, Abercrombie said.
There are three tiers of eligibility under the Medicare Savings Program. Those in the top two tiers could be eliminated from the program, forcing some in the middle to have to use their own resources to pay for medical treatments and prescriptions.
The criteria are based on the federal government’s standards. “But you can design your asset test to look like anything you want,” Abercrombie said. “An asset test would be used in other programs, such as Husky (Healthcare). I would rather see an asset test than a cut to the program.”
A public hearing on the proposal was scheduled for Thursday before the Human Services Committee.
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