Appropriations Committee passes their budget proposal — Still mixed news, but better

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Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee passed their version of the 2019-2021 state budget on a party line vote. While they mainly agreed with the Governor’s proposal from February, they did improve in some areas.

Good and better news –

The committee agreed with the Governor not to cut eligibility for HUSKY parents or the Medicare Savings Program or return to private insurers in Medicaid. Going farther, the Committee rejected the Governor’s proposal to implement an asset test for the MSG program. That would’ve been extremely difficult and time-consuming to implement and DSS already has a lot on its plate. The Committee agreed with the Governor to fund an evidence-based diabetes prevention program for HUSKY. They also added $300,000 for the Center for Medicare Advocacy that helps people enroll and get healthcare in the Medicare program and $475,000 for Meals on Wheels.

The wait-and-see news –

The Committee agreed with the Governor to spend $2 million on consultants to find utilization savings in Medicaid. Hopefully the savings won’t come at the expense of people’s health, and hopefully, unlike in past “reforms”, these consultants are worth the money. The Committee also wants to wring more pharmacy savings from a multi-state purchasing pool. The Committee provides $1 million to the Comptroller’s Office to create a public health insurance option based on the state employee plan.

Still bad news –

The Committee agrees with the Governor to expand the costly, controversial PCMH Plus program beyond the current 180,000 Medicaid members to include CT’s 80,000 most vulnerable members eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid. The Committee also agreed with the Governor to cut local public health services.

In a related vote, the Finance Committee voted yesterday to raise the minimum age for tobacco and e-cigarette purchases to 21.