The Medicare Savings Program and Drugs for the Elderly Program saved from Biennial Budget Cuts

March 8, 2013

Update 2/11/14: LD 1719 proposes to allocate $275,000 on a one-time basis for access to transitional assistance for Medicare Savings Program (MSP) members who are losing state assistance with Medicare Part D plan selection. Click here for Roland Bustier's testimony on how needed this assistance is.

Update 6/26/13: The Senate has voted to override the Governor's veto of the state budget. And, with that, we have a Biennial Budget that preserves the Medicare Savings Program and Drugs for the Elderly Program. Thanks to all of you who made calls and wrote their legislators and thanks to all of the legislators who worked so hard to put this unanimous budget together and who supported it!

Update 6/7: While there are a few changes, the Drugs for the Elderly Program and the Medicare Savings Program have been funded at current levels in the Biennial Budget. Savings will be achieved in these programs, but not by cutting benefits or changing eligibility. This would not have happened but for all those who contacted their legislators, the leadership of Representative Linda Sanborn, the brains of Maine Equal Justice Partners Chris Hasteadt and Legal Services for the Elderly's Leo Delicata. AARP and Area of Agency on Aging helped organize the grassroots effort. 

Click here to read testimony on April 4th by Jessica Maurer of the Maine Assoc. of Area Agencies on Aging on the impact of LR 1046’s budget cuts. Click here to read Stories of Maine Residents in Opposition to Cuts to the Drugs for the Elderly And Medicare Savings Programs as Proposed in the Biennial Budget.

The Governor’s budget would cause:

Approximately 80,000 low-income seniors over the age of 62 and people with disabilities will lose the help they need to afford their prescription drugs. Most of the people impacted have income at or below 175% of the federal poverty level ($19,548/yr. for a single person).

Nearly 40,000 low-income seniors and people with disabilities (those with income between 135% and 175% of the poverty level) will lose the help they currently get through the Medicare Savings Program.

Significant cost shift to the service center communities that shoulder the responsibility of providing basic shelter to Maine people who are homeless, many of whom have mental illness and are not being served by the mental health system. These costs will be shifted to local property taxpayers and access to shelters could be limited as municipalities are forced to make cutbacks.

Approximately 76,000 home owners and renters under the age of 65 who spend a disproportionately high percentage of their income on housing related expenses will lose valuable tax relief.

The Governor was demanding deep cuts to programs that help low income seniors gain access to needed medication and medical treatment.  These cuts included:

These cuts would be bad for seniors and bad for our economy.  Here’s why:

  • If low-income seniors lose these benefits, they will stop taking health-sustaining medications and treatments that they cannot afford.  Some will have critical health events that will result in use of emergency services, hospitalization and long term care (nursing home care costs $88,000 per year) – all more expensive than providing the MSP and DEL benefits, which are mostly paid for by the tobacco settlement, Racino proceeds, and the federal government.

  • Dollars spent through the MSP and DEL programs – again, which are largely federal dollars, not state general fund dollars – infuse hundreds of millions of dollars into our health care system each year.  These dollars support our primary care practices, home health agencies and hospitals.  Cutting these programs will mean less money coming into our health system and could result in reduced health care access, particularly in rural areas.

  • We’re on the eve of an incredible health care transformation in Maine, where health care institutions are being paid to keep populations of people, specifically older adults, healthy instead of treating them when they’re ill.  Cutting DEL and MSP, which are health-sustaining programs, at this time will significantly undermine these critical health care reform efforts.

Click here to read an Editorial in the BDN by AARP State Policy Director, John Hennessey